A week or so ago, I read in this article that the Portland Trail Blazers CJ McCollum was rated as the third best shooting guard in the NBA, only behind James Harden and Klay Thompson. This article kind of shocked me because I didn't realize how high up he was rated among the positions elite. This is one of the few articles that I have read that rank him this high. The others? They all have him slotted way below at 7 and 8. Just going through these articles made me realize how low CJ McCollum is thought of nationally.
Of course you have to put Harden, Thompson, and maybe Demar Derozan ahead of him, but once he starts getting slotted behind Dwayne Wade and J.J Redick you begin to develop a problem. I believe that CJ is better than Dwayne Wade and J.J Redick, and even a guy like Jimmy Butler! In my opinion, Jimmy Butler is overrated and can't hit a shot to save his life from downtown. When he starts to lose, he doesn't really involve his teammates and just tries to make the comeback by himself. Of course this sometimes works, and he looks brilliant, but is he really the guy that you want on your team? That is why I was confused in the Bulls putting three of these types of guys together!
Anyways, I will now statistically prove why CJ McCollum is the most underrated shooting guard in the league. First of all, CJ McCollum does not need to dribble the ball up the court to score. CJ is able to come off of screens and get to the elbow to score, but that rarely happens; last year he only shot without having to dribble 22.7% of the time. Where CJ really shines is in his ball handling ability, and in his ability to get past defenders with ease. He pulls up to shoot almost 50% of the time and 2% more than Lillard did! When it comes to the amount of dribbles he needs, I found that 25% of the field goals he took came with him taking between 3-6 dribbles. When it comes to shooting the 3 ball, he is mainly catch and shoot. (20.3% of three point attempts came off of 0 dribbles)
Another thing that plays to his advantage is his backcourt teammate, Damian Lillard. One, he is another weapon in the backcourt, forcing the opposing defense to not all-out commit on Lillard, and two, he is used as the point guard so that Lillard can run off of screens and get his open shots. This is very helpful for the Trail Blazers offense because when Lillard has to dribble and do his pull-up, he converts on only 39.2% of his 2 point field goals and 34.7% of his 3 point field goals; When he can just catch and shoot off of a pass from someone like CJ, his 2 point field goal percentage spikes to 52.8%, and his 3 point field goal percentage climbs up to 42.7%! Having CJ as the ball handler really helps Lilliard (especially when he passes the ball to him 22.9% of the time), and in turn helps the Blazers in offensive efficiency.
While it may seem like all McCollum does is score, he also does his share on the defensive end. Last year, he only gave up 1.4 3 point shots a game compared to Hardens 2.1, and was only .4 behind Thompson. He also only gave up 1.3 shots a game from the paint. When people were trying to score on him, they had to do it from beyond the free throw line. While CJ's defensive numbers might not be the best among his position group, he is still very serviceable in that category and definitely makes up for it in scoring.
What CJ does in scoring for this team makes up for some of his more glaring deficiencies. McCollum averaged 20.8 points a game last year and did not do much better at home than on the road. In some categories, McCollum was an even better player on the road. He had a better defensive rating on the road(113.2 vs 97.2), and had a bigger impact (11.5 vs 10.9); he also assisted for 3% more of the teams field goals on the road then at home. With how consistent CJ was able to be on the road and at home, it led to him being a very reliable player on this team.
While many people are starting to pick up on McCollums talent after winning the Most Improved Player, many are still doubting him because of his defense, and the tendency that he has to over-dribble. No matter what you think, watching this guy play is something special, and all of us Blazers fans are lucky to have him locked up on our team for years to come.
*All stats that I used in this article came from stats.nba.com