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CJ McCollum Breakout Year Foreseen By Past and Present Teammates

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Averaging more than 20 points per game in a starting role, McCollum is beginning to turn heads around the league. However, his success comes as no surprise to those around him.

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

With another impressive, 28-point performance for CJ McCollum in a win over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, the third-year shooting guard is continuing to turn heads and garner national attention, this time from Adi Joseph of Sporting News.

Joseph addresses McCollum's development and his improvement in 2016. He includes quotes from McCollum's backcourt mate, Damian Lillard, as well as Portland head coach Terry Stotts, center Chris Kaman, and former Blazer Nicolas Batum - all agreeing that they could see this breakout season coming.

"This skinny guy from a little school, I assumed I could guard him like all those guys in the NBA," said Batum, now on the Hornets. "And he blew by me. I'm like — oh ... I had to step back."

"I am not surprised with what's happened for C.J.," Batum said. "I think a lot of people are surprised, but I am not, and he is not, and people back in Portland are not surprised because he can play.

Lillard, who combines with McCollum to form one of the league's highest scoring back courts, offers his take.

"From Day One, everybody could see he had a knack for scoring," said Lillard, also a small college product out of Weber State. "He just knows how to put it in the hole. Everybody outside of this organization is getting to see it now."

The main difference for McCollum in 2015 has been opportunity, as he has started all 17 games this season after starting just three last season. The increased role has allowed the Lehigh product to flourish and his confidence to grow, which Lillard and Stotts point to as one of McCollum's greatest strengths.

"I don't think he's ever lost his confidence, but when you know you're going to start, when you know you're going to play, when you can play through mistakes, it's very freeing for a player," Stotts said. "I'm a big believer in confidence. The more confidence, the better guys generally play."

Added Lillard:

"I don't think he's ever had an issue with confidence," Lillard said. "Since he's come in the league, he's always been really confident. ... With a guy like C.J., when you see one shot go in, the next four might go in."

Joseph also cites Bryant's remarks following Saturday's game, which were covered in depth here.

Read Joseph's entire piece here.

Portland takes on the Clippers in Los Angeles tonight at 7:30 p.m. PST. The game will be shown on CSNNW.