Portland Trail Blazers: 3 reasons trading CJ McCollum has never made sense

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 Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

No. 2 — Chemistry’s no guarantee, given the trades that have been proposed

We’d be doing ourselves a disservice to not look at the trades that have come about. While they certainly look fun on NBA2K, it’s worth wondering how they play out in the real world.

Here are a few just from over the last 12-month span alone:

Blazers receive: Zhaire Smith and Al Horford
76ers receive: CJ McCollum

Blazers receive: Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, and a 2020 first-round pick
Nets receive: CJ McCollum

Blazers receive: Ben Simmons
76ers receive: CJ McCollum, Anfernee Simons, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick

Blazers receive: Aaron Gordon
Magic receive: CJ McCollum

And believe me, there are certainly others. The rationale, especially recently has focused on bolstering the Blazers’ defense. And putting out a backcourt of Lillard and Simmons certainly improves Portland’s chances of stopping opposing backcourts, but what about how that could potentially hamper Lillard’s offensive chances?


Take a play like this, for example. Portland loves to run Lillard on off-screen plays. But CJ McCollum serves as a conductor that keeps this train moving, too. Do you think Derrick White’s coming out that far on Ben Simmons?

Or, how about this dated, but worthy play? (And for goodness sake, ignore the score). Damian Lillard splits a pick-and-roll, and gets an easy lane to the basket. Stephen Curry is so overwhelmed by the idea of him kicking it out deep corner, that he completely ignores his help responsibilities.

It also speaks to the synergy the two have worked to develop within Portland’s ever-changing core. They understand exactly where to be, so as to not negate one another.

The rest of those trades either fail to address the problem (see the Magic trade), or put Portland in another semi-rebuild. Everyone points to Lillard and McCollum’s lack of size as the reason for the Blazers’ defensive struggles.

So, in 2017-18, when the Blazers had the No. 3 ranked defense, that must have been because the two of them grew a few inches for that year, right? Or the season thereafter when they were a top-half defense in the NBA. The point here is simple: put the proper players around them, and they will more than make up the difference. Which leads us to the final slide.