Yesterday we started exploring possible Portland's possible draft selections, kicking off the proceedings with a look at a couple big men. Today we check the other end of the height spectrum, examining a couple small guards rumored to be hanging around the vicinity of #10.
C.J. McCollum--6'3", 197 lb combo guard from Lehigh, 21 y.o. Senior
The first thing that jumps out about C.J. McCollum is...well...his jumper. The striking part isn't purity of form, rather his ability to get off his jump shot under almost any circumstance: dribbling, catch-and-shoot, off of screens. He's got good range, a quick enough release; that "J" is a threat.
Even with his offense coming from range McCollum's shooting and efficiency numbers are high. He draws fouls at a nice rate too. Put all that together and he's a scoring machine, clearly the best reason to draft him.
Passing ability on offense and steals on defense also recommend him, at least as a shooting guard. His rebounding rate is high but that skill might not transfer to the NBA...not a huge loss.
McCollum is more crafty than athletic. Four years in college have given him a good sense of the game and ways to exploit his own ability and the defense at the same time. He's not explosive though. His lateral movement doesn't impress. Much of his success in the lane in college came against average athletes, many of whom fouled him. Pro defenders won't be so obliging, nor so slow or easily duped. McCollum will likely have trouble finishing in the lane in the NBA. He'll also have trouble guarding bigger or quicker opponents.
If McCollum is to become a point guard in the NBA he'll probably end up the scoring variety more than the pure facilitator. He can pass but his eye appears to be more towards his own shot. He'll need some work and seasoning before he can helm a good team.
This draft has been knocked for lack of stars. Whether McCollum has the talent to ascend to star level remains to be seen, but among the mid-to-high prospective picks he's the only one with star bearing. He walks, moves, and shoots with confidence. He makes his mistakes trying to do things, not shying away. He looks and acts like a really good player. You can't miss him on the court. That can't be taught. Under the right circumstances this guy could be a huge boost.
Verdict for the Blazers
The Blazers need somebody who can help right away. McCollum qualifies.
McCollum's biggest potential drawbacks are that he might not be a true point guard and he's probably too small to defend starting shooting guards. Ideally the Blazers would be drafting him as a scoring spark-plug 6th man, thus requiring him to do neither for extended stretches. If McCollum could get used to a role off the bench, spelling Lillard for a few minutes and playing alongside him against opposing second units, he could be just what the Blazers ordered. He'd be able to dine on all the shots he wanted. His jumper would fit right in with Portland's offense. Plus he'd add the wrinkle of being able to get it off his own dribble.
As long as he's in that 6th man role, there's not a lot of downside to taking C.J. if he's available at #10. Even though he's not the hyper-athletic, drive-heavy finisher that most envision, McCollum might be an adequate enough reserve wing scorer to make the Blazers forget about going after another in free agency. Filling that need with a rookie contract makes more sense than trying to fill the starting center need that way. Freeing up the remainder of Portland's cap space to chase starting centers and assorted spot guys would be a fine use of the 10th pick.
If the swagger made McCollum into the league's next hot, young point-a-minute guy off the bench, so much the better.
Trey Burke--6'0", 187 lb PG from Michigan, 20 y.o. Sophomore
Like McCollum, Trey Burke is a fantastic jump shooter. His range extends even farther out on the court and he's completely fearless. He's got great shooting and efficiency percentages as well. He can get his own shot without difficulty. He adds more passing than McCollum but fewer free throws drawn. Smart, volume-scoring point guards never go out of style in this league and Burke is exactly that.
Burke is also short and sports a small frame. That doesn't automatically disqualify point guards from success but you have to be super talented (and usually super-quick) to make an impact. Burke may not be at that level. Three questions arise:
1. The mid-range pull-up was one of his strengths in college. He does have a 6'5" wingspan so he can extend, but will he be able to create enough separation to get that shot off in the NBA?
2. The most effective set-up for the pull-up jumper is the ability to finish at the rim. If defenders fear a layup or dunk it's easy to drive hard, rise, and connect. But Burke had trouble finishing at the rim even against NCAA competition. If he can't score at the cup defenders will just watch for the mid-range jumper and snuff him. Plus his foul shots will disappear. Plus the drive-and-dish won't be effective. That's a lot of things to remove from the arsenal.
3. Defense is always a concern when you're small. Burke isn't a bad defender but he isn't a good enough defender to overcome his size disadvantage against many point guards either.
Burke won't ever be a bad player. His shooting alone will keep him in the league a long time. But you may end up with a jump-shooting specialist with decent passing ability and not much effective defense. Even though Burke has starting-level talent, that's closer to the description of a reserve point guard.
If Burke can unveil his entire repertoire on offense, however, he's going to be a dangerous scoring-passing combination. If not, he'll just be a handy guy to have around.
Verdict for the Blazers
The Blazers already have a point guard. Drafting a reserve point guard with the #10 is a bad move. It's tough to envision Burke and Damian Lillard playing together for long stretches without the defense disintegrating. Therefore Portland drafting Burke is a reach.
If he's still on the board at #10, though, he may be the best player available by a long shot. The Blazers need talent, period. Point guards will always be valuable in trade. Ending up in a Mark Price-Terrell Brandon scenario wouldn't be the end of the world for Portland. (Obviously that was veteran-youngster and this is sophomore-rookie, but the Blazers aren't contending in the playoffs right now either.) Coach Stotts could figure out how to take advantage of two wonderfully-shooting point guards while Neil Olshey started thinking about how to work the phones when that strategy ran its course.
Note: Read about C.J. McCollum's solo workout for the Blazers HERE.
Weigh in on these two guard prospects below! How enthused (or not) would you be if the Blazers ended up with either of these players?