Portland Trail Blazers: Counting down the most interesting Draft player comparisons in team history

CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /

C.J. McCollum: Lehigh, 2009-10 – 2012-13

Was compared to:

The day C.J. McCollum stepped onto an NBA court for the first time, he already put one exclamation point on his career. He could’ve retired that day, and he’d have been the best player to ever play for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

Keeping up with the trend of punctuation, that’s important, especially when you consider how many question marks Draft experts attached to his Draft profile.

Was he a point guard? Or could you run him at the two? Seven years and nearly 10,000 NBA points later, there’s still no answer, and it probably doesn’t even matter.

Crafty James’ Draft comparisons were of extra intrigue, simply for no reason other than how far these two are off the spectrum. On one hard, he’s likened to a future two-time Most Valuable Player, arguably (or inarguably?) the game’s greatest scorer, and perhaps most noteworthy of all, he’s not being compared to Stephen Curry in 2009. This came during the summer of Curry’s breakout, where he for the first time, got to show his offensive brilliance on a national, postseason stage.

And then on the other hand, he’s compared to Juan Dixon, a serviceable combo guard best known for backing up Gilbert Arenas at Washington.

Don’t mistake this for a slight. In his heyday at the University of Maryland, Dixon was a certified bucket, who just so happened to have some March Madness magic of his own in 2002. After he cut the hearts out of Indiana, his postgame speech, — “I wasn’t nervous at all. I’ve been through tougher situations in my life. This was nothing. I knew we were going to win.” — sounded McCollum-esque. I once saw someone wearing his Wizards jersey at the YMCA, too, a telltale sign that you’re a big deal in some way.

The more you dig into McCollum’s Draft stock, the more you realize he’d make quite the rebel, too. Most players in McCollum’s shoes would have left college after his 30-piece on Duke in the NCAA tournament with skyrocketing Draft stock. McCollum hung tight, trusting his own intuition, even though a fifth metatarsal fracture in his senior season stood as a roadblock.

And then, on NBA.com’s 3D metrics page, they list out some of his weaknesses. One catches the eye: “He needs to add size.” At the time, he weighed in at 197 pounds. And sure enough, in 2019-20 he weighs … 197 pounds.

Once a player gets typecast as a “combo guard,” they’re expected to assume some of the role as a creator. He’s seldom received credit for it, but the former Most Improved Player of the Year has stepped up, especially in Lillard’s absence. If he’s done nothing else, he’s excelled every expectation, especially to that of Dixon. And you can put a period on that.