Portland Trail Blazers: Grading CJ McCollum’s three-year extension

The Portland Trail Blazers have made a bold move to stick to their guns for the foreseeable future by locking CJ McCollum down on a $100 million extension.

In one fell swoop, the unwarranted speculation, ridiculous trade ideas and constant murmuring about CJ McCollum’s future with the Portland Trail Blazers find themselves withering away. The Blazers have made it abundantly clear where CJ stands in the organization’s eyes by locking him down to a three-year, $100 million extension.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was the first to drop this bombshell.

This decision comes in tandem with the four-year supermax extension handed out to Damian Lillard. Neither extension will kick in until the 2021-22 season, where they will be owed a collective total of $296 million.

Pulling the trigger on these extensions two years ahead of time does carry some significant risks. If either player experiences any significant injuries or regression in their game, the Blazers will be stuck footing the bill for a player no longer worth his paycheck.

However, a team on the brink of championship contention like Portland can’t be stuck playing the “What If?” game. Committing to the star duo of guards keeps the Blazers on the same page in their pursuit of a championship without outside rumors of the future causing distractions.

This extension also signifies a relationship between player and front office that appears to be quickly dying out around the league. Whether it be stars demanding trades for a better situation (Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler) or teams backstabbing loyal franchise cornerstones (Isaiah Thomas, DeMar DeRozan, Blake Griffin), very rarely is this level of commitment shown from both parties.

Neil Olshey and the rest of Portland’s management have gone to great lengths to establish continuity and develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the team’s stars. Lillard has even gone on record to outright say he wishes to spend the entirety of his career in Portland. Now, McCollum’s decision reflects the same sentiment.

Portland Trail Blazers fans will now get to witness Lillard and McCollum wear down opposing defenses for another five years. That’s cause for celebration! Shelling out the money to keep the championship contention window open was seen as an uncertainty heading into this summer but this extension all but settles things.

That being said, there are a few reasons to be less than ecstatic about the move.

Paying a nearly 33-year-old McCollum north of $35 million per year is probably going to sting. Likewise, shelling out an exorbitant $54 million for a 34-year-old Lillard is the price it’s gonna taken to lock down his prime years. That’s precisely why drafting intelligently and making the right moves to stay competitive now are so vital.

Speaking of drafting intelligently, Anfernee Simons has been hyped up by the front office all offseason and was looking poised to have a break out year following an impressive Summer League performance.

Following this extension, Simons would presumably be locked out of the starting lineup for the next five years. Even if he does make a big leap and surpasses McCollum by the end of his extension, he won’t get the time to make it count. Simons’ rookie scale contract ends in the summer of 2022, just one year into McCollum’s extension.

In a vacuum, it’s probably unlikely Simons is better than McCollum in three years, and he’s going to want to get paid. This leaves Anfernee’s role for the future shrouded in mystery, but that’s a problem for another day.

Grade: B+

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Regardless if CJ actually ends up being worth this money, this extension is a big win for the Blazers. Gone are the days of stars like Clyde Drexler, Maurice Lucas, Bill Walton and Rasheed Wallace forcing their way out of Portland. This move is a shining beacon to all players in the league that the Blazers will take care of their own.