May 16, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; C.J. McCollum is interviewed during the NBA Draft combine at Harrison Street Athletics Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

CJ McCollum's Shooting Woes

I never know what to think about the Summer League. On one hand, it’s really just glorified streetball. I also think, though, that it can be a valuable time for coaches and fans to get a glimpse at the futures of their franchise. Should we judge players based on it? Does it actually matter? I suspect the truth lies within all of those statements and questions. At a minimum, it is worth paying attention to.

Since I did not have access to any of the games the past week, my version of “paying attention” has consisted of poring over stats, as per usual. I had known that McCollum was putting up some numbers, but I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that, as of this writing, he is actually leading the Las Vegas Summer League in points per game.

This is, unsurprisingly, misleading. My feeling of ‘pleasant surprise’ lasted exactly as long as it took for me to see that his 21 points a game were coming on 20.2 shots with 36.6% shooting. I had to go down to the 16th leading scorer (Ben McLemore, Sacramento) to find a top scorer who was shooting a lower percentage. For comparison, last year in the Summer League Damian Lillard put up 26.2 points per game on 43.8% shooting.

Now, before anything else: CJ McCollum is not Damian Lillard, nor is he expected to be. That comparison can’t be held against him. It is his performance compared to his peers’ this year that has me a little worried. Yes Summer League is, as I mentioned, essentially elite streetball, but the environment is the same for everyone. This makes me wonder why McCollum is so entrenched in the low end of the field goal percentage spectrum.

Twenty-one points a game may seem gaudy, but it is completely negated by the fact that he it has required 20 shots a game to get there. Anyone can volume shoot themselves into huge scoring nights (cough*Allen Iverson*cough), but that does little good for the team. Efficiency is the name of the game in today’s NBA, and requiring over 20 shots to get only 21 points is about as far away from efficient as you can get.

Now, like I said, it is anyone’s guess how much the Summer League actually matters. Rather than being a full blown concern, I would classify this more as something of interest; something I will definitely monitor once the regular season starts. There could also be several other factors at play, though: due to his injury, McCollum has not played since January. Some of the shooting woes could be due to simple rust. You can put up as many jumpers in a gym as you like, but that is still no comparison for shooting against a real defender.

Additionally, as common sense dictates, someone on any basketball team has to take the shots. The Blazers’ Summer League roster isn’t exactly filled with offensive juggernauts, so it appears as if McCollum has been the de facto “shot taker” (an all too familiar persona for those familiar with pick-up games). This certainly will hinder his efficiency, as he is forced to take subpar shots, as well as allowing opposing defenses to key in on him.

With that being said, though, you have to start thinking about his ability to produce against real competition once the regular season starts. McCollum won’t face defenses this weak again for the rest of his career (unless he plays in next year’s Summer League). The competition is only going to get stiffer from here on out, and it will be crucial for McCollum to ratchet up his efficiency in response.

Just to be clear: this is nothing to be worried about yet. McCollum is a rookie playing in his first competitive games in nearly 7 months, so I’m mostly just nitpicking. You win games by scoring points, and so far McCollum has done that for his team. Scoring just 1.04 points per shot, however, is not a recipe for future success. Once the rust gets knocked off, we will be able to pass more accurate judgment.

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Tags: Cj Mccollum Portland Trail Blazers Summer League

  • buzzbaby

    Man, you seem like a smart and reasonable guy, but i have to give you my feedback on this post.

    “Po[u]ring” over stats, huh. All I see is PPG and FG% (and points per shot…i’ll count that as half a stat), and your commentary makes me pretty sure that you didn’t care about the rest. CJ’s shot-jacking was pretty bad at times, sure, but I am a believer in this; if you don’t have access to the games, better to avoid blogging about them.

    Secondly, this: “Anyone can volume shoot themselves into huge scoring nights (cough*Allen Iverson*cough), but that does little good for the team”

    That’s hard to read, my man. You know Kyrie? He’s Allen Iverson LITE. Ask anyone in Philly if he was “little good for [their] team” in his MVP year when he carried Mutombo, Aaron McKie and Eric Snow to face the souped up Lakers in the Finals. If you had said Nick Young, I’m there with you all the way. Sadly, AI is perhaps the single easiest player to use to expose “box-score watchers.”

    FG% is a huge indicator, no doubt, but it is, at best, a ROUGH proxy for one’s offensive performance, given the multitude of in-game variables that the stat dudes don’t check a box for.

    I’m not even trying to hate on you man. I just hold writers who publish their stuff, blogging or otherwise, to a bit of a higher standard for the rigor of their opinions. I think you might be a pretty young dude so just try to keep that in mind in your future posts.

    • blazing88

      Some valid points, but it is definitely “poring”.