John Dorn, a featured columnist at bleacherreport.com predicts the players he thinks may thrive when the bright lights of the NBA playoffs are turned on in a few weeks. His list includes C.J. McCollum along with Houston's Terrence Jones, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chicago's Jimmy Butler, and Golden State's Klay Thompson. This is what he has to say about McCollum:
The Portland Trail Blazers were desperate for a role player to step up in the wake of Wes Matthews' season-ending Achilles injury, and they've gotten a pleasant surprise in C.J. McCollum.
In his 14 games since entering the rotation full time on March 13, the 23-year-old has contributed 10.7 points on average over 20.9 minutes a night, on 49.2 percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range.
Dorn writes about how Arron Afflalo will make up most of Wesley Matthews' production, but that McCollum will have to make up the rest, especially the big shots that Wesley seemed to hit consistently. So far C.J. is looking like he's up to the task:
Against playoff teams since March 13, he's shot 25-of-47, or 53 percent, from the field—including 10-of-17, or 59 percent, from three. He hasn't shot many attempts at the rim this season, but when he gets there, he finishes at a respectable clip of 57.8 percent.
Even on defense, Dorn finds lots to like about C.J., but with a realistic limitation:
At a lanky 6'4", 200 pounds, defensive assignments should theoretically pose issues for McCollum. But ESPN.com's real plus-minus ranks him 14th out of 98 qualified shooting guards in defensive RPM.
Expecting McCollum to rise to Kawhi Leonard levels of stardom in this postseason is a reach. But he's shown the potential to expand his role and play a key factor in the Trail Blazers' current fortune—which is significantly more than what his expectations were a month ago.
Every postseason a few players seem to rise to the occasion. Last year it was Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green. Will C.J. McCollum be one of them this year?