CJ McCollum has started the 2021 season on a high. If the Portland Trail Blazers guard continues in this vein of form, he is a surefire All-Star selection.
The Portland Trail Blazers have started the year with a steady three and two record, but CJ McCollum has been the team’s best player. Though Damian Lillard hasn’t played poorly, McCollum has come out on a tear, having the best start to his NBA career.
He has made a few distinct changes to his game this season, which has helped him make this jump.
Firstly, he has significantly upped his three-point volume. McCollum has always been one of the league’s best shooters, but it was always with a combination of floaters, mid-range shots, and threes. This season, he has actually taken more shots overall, but through the first five games, he has taken a lot fewer shots at the rim, and taken more jumpers.
Because McCollum is just six-foot-three with a small 190-pound frame, he struggles to get to the rim and finish there anyway. By sticking to his strength of shooting, he is supercharging his efficiency.
Have a look at his stats through five games, and you can see a vastly different shot profile, and significantly better counting stats.
28.0 points / 5.8 assists / 1.6 steals.
45.9 percent from the field / 45.6 percent from three / 87.5 percent from the line.
True shooting percentage 60.3 percent.
11.4 three-pointers attempts per game.
In terms of his three-point rate, McCollum’s previous career-high is 40 percent in his rookie year. This means the number of shots he takes from three as a proportion of his total shot attempts.
This year he is taking a whopping 52.3 percent of his shots from three. It obviously helps that he is hitting on 45.6 percent of these, but swapping his rim shots for threes is a genius idea.
We detailed McCollum’s playmaking and defensive improvements a few days ago, and you can see the drastic improvement in steals per game, and assists per game. All of the above numbers are career highs so far bar the field goal percentage.
On top of the three and two record, these numbers aren’t just All-Star numbers, they are All-NBA numbers. He leads the league in three-point makes so far, and his stronger playmaking and defense have helped his team got across the line in big games.
The Western Conference is a tough place to get selected for All-Star games, but at the moment, CJ is the best player on one of the West’s best teams. He may not keep up the crazy efficiency through to the break, but there’s no doubt that McCollum is moving into the prime of his career where he has the best personnel alongside him also.
This Blazers team has the spacing and wing defenders that have made McCollum’s job easier on both ends. The floor is spaced with guys like Gary Trent Jr. and Robert Covington. Simultaneously, these same players can defend the opposition’s best perimeter players, leaving McCollum and Lillard to guard lesser threats on the opposition.
If McCollum can average 20 plus points a game, while shooting 40 percent from three, he can make the All-Star game. The Blazers as a team have more national attention now, and McCollum can get the votes required to make his first All-Star game in 2021.
He doesn’t have the significant competition in the West now with Klay Thompson injured, McCollum is deserving of making his first All-Star game.