Damian Lillard Says CJ McCollum Trade Was 'Exactly What' Pelicans Needed

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVApril 13, 2022

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers and CJ McCollum #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans embrace before the game on March 30, 2022 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Damian Lillard believes CJ McCollum found the perfect home with the New Orleans Pelicans after his midseason trade from the Portland Trail Blazers.

"I thought when the trade happened, looking at the talent they have in New Orleans, in my head I was like, he's exactly what they needed," Lillard said, per ESPN's Andrew Lopez. "Look at their team. They got the talent, they got the youth mixed with a little bit of experience, and you throw him into the mix and you really got something. I think it's taking shape."

McCollum was in his ninth season playing alongside Lillard before the Trail Blazers split up the backcourt duo in February. Now he has the Pelicans competing for a playoff spot in Wednesday's play-in game against the San Antonio Spurs.

New Orleans was 22-32 before the trade but finished 14-14 to earn the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference.

McCollum has been a key part of the Pelicans' success, averaging 24.3 points, 5.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in 26 appearances. All would be career highs over a full season.

He scored 30 points in eight games with New Orleans after reaching the mark just twice in 36 games with Portland.

Even with Zion Williamson still recovering from a foot injury, the Pelicans have a dangerous offense with McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas capable of filling up the stat sheet.

Considering much of the rotation has never competed in the playoffs—including key players Ingram (who is probable to return from a hamstring injury for Wednesday's game), Herbert Jones and Devonte' Graham—McCollum can also provide valuable experience with 57 career postseason games over eight years.

With the Trail Blazers in the midst of a rebuild, Lillard knows McCollum found a good landing spot.