Revisiting the national media’s predictions for the 2019-20 Portland Trail Blazers

Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

No. 1: ESPN predicts CJ McCollum to be the 13th best player in NBA

The search for riveting conversation wasn’t a difficult one this past offseason. In between the surfacing dynamics and dreams of LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard power struggles for California, the one-year interregnum of Golden State’s dynasty and ESPN predicting CJ McCollum to be the No. 13 player in the Association, there was something for even the introverts.

Continuing its annual tradition, ESPN experts shelled out a “Top 100 Players in the NBA,” factoring in last season’s Playoff festivities, along with some sort of educated guess on next season’s rollover. McCollum’s magic from the 2019 postseason brought forth a jump of 17 spots, thrusting him ahead of: Rudy Gobert (14) and some testy shooting guard competition, such as Luka Doncic (16), Bradley Beal (19), Jimmy Butler (20), and Jimmy Butler (21).

ESPN senior writer Andre Snellings offered this assessment:

"“Is McCollum ready to step up as a co-headliner with Damian Lillard for an entire season? McCollum has long been the secondary scoring Robin to Damian Lillard‘s Batman for the Trail Blazers. The past two seasons, McCollum averaged 21.2 PPG in the regular season versus Lillard’s 26.3. However, that story changed during the past two playoffs, with McCollum upping his scoring to 24.8 PPG versus Lillard’s 25.2 PPG. If McCollum can maintain that raised level of shotmaking throughout the season, it would ease the load on Lillard and help Portland challenge for the top spot in the West.”"

Few postseason runs in my lifetime have meant more, personally. In every sense of the phrase, McCollum helped lead a pack of underdogs with the most voracious bite. A bit more luck, and the Blazers likely could have seen its Cinderella run skate on through to the NBA Finals.

Because of my affinity for both: a) how much cred this ranking gave Portland’s co-star, and b) the overall ballsiness of it, I’ll plead the fifth on commentary in criticizing it. As The Rock would say, finalllllly.”

Maybe you take offense to that ambitious ranking, but here’s the reality: if we’re talking about a situation where big games matter and all the cards are on the table, it’s justifiable. McCollum’s 23.2 points per game ranks ninth among players with at least 30 Playoff games played, and though it’s still in the negatives, the Blazers are 3.3 points per possession better with him on the floor vs. off.

Does that make this prediction any less controversial? Perhaps not. Especially after what we’ve seen from the likes of Doncic and Beal as the sole providers. But it’s a decision most Blazer diehards can probably ride with nonetheless, albeit probably quietly.