Portland Trail Blazers: 4 role players who became household names in the Playoffs

Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

34. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. G. 3. player. 2015 NBA Playoffs. CJ McCollum

2015 NBA Playoffs – Per Game Stats:

  • 17.0 points per game, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals per game
  • 47.8 percent from the field, 47.8 percent from 3, 76.9 percent from the free throw line

So, first and foremost, let’s state the obvious, because why not? Like a student on the Dean’s list, C.J. McCollum has long graduated from the role player stage, and has blossomed into one of the league’s best non-superstars. Now that that’s out of the way….

Given Portland’s luck, negatives have generally outweighed the positives. The trade for Arron Afflalo and the subsequent Achilles tear from Wesley Matthews undoubtedly marked one of the darkest three-week spans in Portland history, even as they remained contenders. Because Afflalo didn’t quite fit in Portland’s scheme, it left some wonder as to how Portland would go about arranging the minutes alongside Damian Lillard during the Playoff run.

Enter C.J. McCollum.

Two weeks after the Matthews injury, the sophomore had become a fixture off the bench for Portland, averaging 14.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals on a pristine 52.3 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from deep. He was generating nearly a point for every two minutes he played, and that gave the Blazers a bit of comfort going into a series against the Memphis Grizzlies’ top-tier defense.

The first two games were an anomaly, with McCollum shooting 4-of-21, but over the next few games, “Crafty James” was born. No one could’ve imagined the Lillard-Aldridge era was ending, and a new one was beginning, but over the last three games of that series, Portland’s up-and-coming guard broke out to the tune of: 25.7 points and 4.0 rebounds on 60.9 percent, 64.7 percent from deep, and 76.9 percent from the free throw line.

If the series had been during the Twitter prime, McCollum would’ve been trending, along with “Who is C.J. McCollum,” and “shake-and-bake.”

Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger and guard Beno Udrih had to pay their respects to a player they probably weren’t expecting to be discussing at large, after a brilliant, season-saving Game Four.

"“We’ve got serious problems right now with C.J. McCollum,” head coach Dave Joerger said. “And he is getting to the rim, to the rim, to the rim on us over and over and over. He had another good game tonight. We’ve got to do a better job of keeping in front of him.” “He’s definitely a great player, and he’s got a great future ahead of him,” Beno Udrih said. “We’ve just got to stay in front of him. We’ve got to do a better job. We didn’t do our jobs. He got to the basket a couple times and got himself going.”"

Experts still weren’t sold on the Portland Trail Blazers, predicting them to be among the absolute worst teams in the NBA.

Though he was still an injury concern, the Blazers saw enough during that three-game stretch (and before) to pick up his fourth-year option. Five years, a few series wins, a Most Improved Player of the Year award, and 8,000+ points later, there’s probably little, if any regret about the move.