Nov 09, 2012; Waco, TX, USA; Lehigh Mountain Hawks guard C.J. McCollum (3) reacts during the game against the Baylor Bears at the Ferrell Center. Baylor won 99-77. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Waning Excitement for CJ McCollum

Guards were never the most glaring need for the Blazers this offseason, so when Portland selected CJ McCollum with the 10th pick of the 2013 NBA draft, some were left a little disappointed. At the time, the Blazers already had Damian Lillard, Eric Maynor, Wesley Matthews, and Will Barton. Eric Maynor has since signed with the Washington Wizards, but the Blazers added guards Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Allen Crabbe, Terrel Harris, and (of course) CJ McCollum in his stead.

Yikes. McCollum was selected because he was the best player available, not because he filled a specific need, but whatever role he was supposed to have with the Blazers has since diminished substantially. Mo Williams will get most of the minutes behind Damian Lillard, leaving primarily relief minutes behind Wesley Matthews for CJ McCollum. He will be sharing this duty with Barton and Crabbe as well.

This is not at all an ideal situation for a lottery pick. It almost seems wasteful. Scratch that—it is. Barring injury, I can’t envision a likely scenario in which McCollum sees meaningful minutes on the Blazers’ current roster. I foresee the same frustrations from CJ McCollum this season that Minnesota saw from Derrick Williams (drafted 2nd overall in 2011 only to live in Kevin Love’s shadow).

Here’s where I’m going to get bold and, quite probably, ahead of myself. The Blazers have added so much talent in the offseason that they may have to clean house at the February trade deadline in order to capitalize on it. As it stands, 48 minutes per game is simply not enough time to utilize every notable player in their lineup. Since McCollum’s skill set is redundant behind Lillard and Matthews, it may behoove the Blazers to see who else is interested in his services.

I would like to see Portland conglomerate their talent into a tighter core. They are now too deep at shooting guard to operate efficiently and CJ McCollum is the most enticing trade piece among Portland’s guards that don’t comprise the present core. Some sort of 3-for-1 style bundle could help the Blazers tighten up their rotation while adding an impact player at a weaker position (most likely center).

It’s entirely possible that if Portland trades McCollum, they will be missing out on an amazing young talent, but if he is lost to the depths of depth on Portland’s bench, the result remains the same. This is where drafting talent over need can be a problem. However, trade is the built in solution. When you have a coveted piece that is of dwindling use to you, other teams will notice. The Blazers may find themselves in an opportune situation yet.

It’s also possible that if McCollum impresses, Portland will keep him waiting in the wings for a season or two. Mo Williams could opt out after this season, opening up a primary spot at reserve point guard, or Matthews could leave as a free agent in 2015, leaving the starting shooting guard slot vacant. If the Blazers think McCollum is well suited for either of these roles, he may have to wait to find his place.

No matter how you slice it, Portland’s current setup is not structured for CJ’s success. Something will have to change in order for him to see proper playing time.

Tags: Cj Mccollum Nba Draft Portland Trail Blazers

  • 6is9

    McCollum is way too good to not play. Why the team picked a virtual clone of Damian Lillard has been a mystery to me. I watched him play in the Summer League. He is a tremendous talent. He absolutely has Rookie Of The Year potential. I had assumed the Blazers had a strategy to play them both, envisioning one or the other at point, or perhaps rotating. Or going with a third guard scheme. Then they signed Mo Williams, which left me scratching my head. I sure hope they don’t waste McCollum’s time and talent and their money by failing to play him significant minutes.

    I’m also more than a little baffled by another player personnel decision. I believe their choice to trade Jeff Withey will one day be one of those mentioned in the “what could have been if” ruminations the Blazers rich history of bad draft moves so readily invites. That guy was excellent in the Summer League, showing the same skills that made him, even more than Ben Maclemore, the reason Kansas was as good as they were this year. Without Jeff Withey Kansas wouldn’t have made it to the national championship game when he and Thomas Robinson were juniors. He’s an extraordinary shot blocker. This season he had blocked almost the same number as the vaunted Nerlens Noel when Noel went down with his season-ending injury. And statistically Withey was substantially more efficient. Here’s why: Noel is a swatter whose blocks looked awesome as they went sailing into the seats or back out to the perimeter and right back to the other team. He may have prevented a basket but he likely gave their opponent another opportunity to score. Jeff Withey has extraordinary control over what happens to the ball when he blocks it. He grew up playing volleyball, son of collegiate volleyball players. When he blocks a shot it almost never goes back to the other team. It doesn’t go out of bounds, but usually ends up in the hands of a teammate, often starting a break that leads to a dunk or layup at the offensive end. Withey also has great control of his body for a big man. He rarely commits a foul attempting to block a shot or otherwise. Two or three fouls a game typically. To my knowledge he never fouled out of a game in his Kansas career. That is a huge factor adding to his value. Withey has become a skilled passer as well. He can score if he looks to, though in the Kansas offense that was secondary to his role. After transferring to Kansas and redshirting his growth trajectory as a player was astounding and is clearly still arcing upwards.

    Withey was a great draft pick. What a compliment to Aldridge and a built-in chemistry with Robinson. Stupid, stupid trade. Almost as stupid as firing Kevin Pritchard two or three years ago.

  • foothandman

    Crabbe, Watson, Harris, etc. are all further down the depth charts and won’t challenge him for minutes. It basically comes down to CJ vs. Will Barton. Barton has talent, but hasn’t shown much polish. If CJ can keep turnovers down and stay efficient on offense, he has a good chance to supplant Barton and earn 10+ min/game. If he excels, then he’ll get more time. There are always injuries, and he’ll see extra minutes if/when Dame, Wes, Nic, Mo, etc roll an ankle.

  • blazerfan808

    I originally thought mccollum was scrapping for the starting SG position. Then is slunk to a 6th man Jarrett Jack / Lou Williams /Jason Terry type role, which in hindsight is not a bad deal. His intangibles are great. He is smarter and meaner than your average tweener. Mo Will is insurance, I get that, but I think McCollum has the potential to contribute in a way that Harden did with the Thunder. But as for his rookie year and situation, I don’t see him getting enough minutes to become ROY. The only way he is going to make a serious dent in the line up is with an inury (God forbid) or if he proves he can defend the SG.