Should C.J. McCollum be a starter in 2015-16?


The Portland Trail Blazers are currently transitioning into a young team with low expectations after making two consecutive playoff appearances. The squad will be reliant on its nucleus of young talent, which could spell the end of the team’s playoff aspirations before they even begin; especially in the tough Western Conference. Regardless, if the Blazers plan on making any noise during the regular season, they will need major contributions from some under-the-radar players.

We all know what Damian Lillard can do and he is expected to take on a leadership role. However, some of the other athletes will need to step up if the team wants to have a shot at playing in the postseason. C.J. McCollum is one of the players who will be counted on to bring more to the table.

There is playing time available at the shooting guard position now that Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo have signed elsewwhere. McCollum has the potential to seize the starting role, but would he be better served as an instant-offense reserve player?

McCollum will be entering his third NBA season in 2015-16. His first two seasons were marked with inconsistent playing time, but he has earned the right to become a more permanent fixture within Head Coach Terry Stotts’ nightly rotation.

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McCollum started to earn his keep at the end of last season, and he carried the momentum into the playoffs. He started the first couple of games in the first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, as Afflalo sat with a shoulder strain. Once Afflalo returned to the lineup, McCollum came off of the bench for the final three games, but he ended up playing more minutes than the ineffective Afflalo did.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that McCollum can be a sparkplug off of the bench for the Blazers. He scored 33 points in the series-clinching Game 5 loss for Portland. He could be one of the best sixth men in the league if he can get consistent minutes and stay aggressive. I could envision him playing a role like Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers) or Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) – coming off of the bench and averaging around 25 minutes per game.

However, he may be forced to play as the starting shooting guard for the Trail Blazers this upcoming season. Allen Crabbe is the only other two guard with experience within Stotts’ system, and Gerald Henderson could end up behind McCollum on the depth chart depending on how the Trail Blazers value player development. I am not saying that McCollum cannot be productive as an NBA starter, but he may be better served as the first reserve off of the pine.

Combining the regular season and the playoffs, McCollum played in 14 games where he played 25+ minutes in 2014-15. He averaged 17.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per-game in those contests, only some of which involved gaudy garbage time statistics. He is primed for a much bigger role within the team’s offense, and he may be a candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award if he gets it.

The best scenario for McCollum may be Henderson starting the game at the two, while he comes in as a change of pace, high-scoring reserve. Regardless of whether McCollum is a starter or not, he needs to be ready to score points in bunches. The Trail Blazers will be counting on his contributions over this upcoming campaign, and this may be make or break time for him.

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