Portland Trail Blazers: What are experts saying about the Blazers after Week 4?

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports) /

What are experts saying about the Blazers’ individual play?

The Blazers’ star backcourt continues to produce intriguing subplots over the early parts of this season. But here’s one we likely didn’t expect: there’s a case to be made for both of them playing at an MVP-caliber level at this point on the season.

As a case in point: Basketball Reference’s Most Valuable Player tracker has CJ McCollum rated No. 7 league wide, the second-highest guard behind LeBron James. And NBA.com’s Sekou Smith has his teammate Damian Lillard slotted at the No. 9 spot.

It’s less important that either of them wins the award; simply having the two of them performing on that stratosphere makes the Portland Trail Blazers should account for at least a few more wins than usual.

HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina pegged McCollum for the No. 6 spot on the Most Valuable Player, and had a thought-provoking take on his shot profile. The smooth two-guard has sacrificed what used to his most effective shot — the dribble pull-up from midrange — in favor of the more analytically-approved 3-point shot. For that reason, his true shooting percentages look a lot like Lillard’s.

But make no mistake: with the game on the line, those trusty midrange shots and attacks inside the arc are as trustworthy as ever. The two are a combined 7-of-12 on such shots.

Beyond those two, there hasn’t been a ton of noise from the national media. There were expectations that Jusuf Nurkic could contend for an All-Star appearance, though early season returns would suggest that isn’t judicious.

The Blazers also had two Sixth Man of the Year candidates in Anthony and Trent Jr., but that appears to be an uphill battle, as they rank 15th and 31st in bench points respectively. It promises to be a long season with much to watch for. But for now, Lillard and McCollum are the must-watch commodities among this group.

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