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CJ McCollum's Progression Alongside Damian Lillard Brightens Blazers' Future

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Some had anticipated that the Blazers would be in the running for worst in the west. Instead, they have exceeded expectations and joined the playoff race. Their success as a team is due in part to the ascension of CJ McCollum.

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Though Damian Lillard is stealing headlines with his recent play, it is the combination of him and CJ McCollum that is the foundation of the Blazers' success. The two of them form the league's third highest-scoring tandem. According to Portland GM Neil Olshey (via NBA.com's Ian Thomsen), the Blazers could see McCollum's development coming a mile away.

"Damian and C.J. are our two best players," said Olshey. "They are our two best passers, our two best shooters and our two best scorers. The irony is, if C.J. doesn't get hurt in camp as a rookie, then we were having this conversation two years ago. He was that good."

The well-documented off-season overhaul created more questions than answers for the Blazers coming into the season, and it seemed as if the only sure bet was Lillard.

"I don't blame the prognosticators for looking at us and saying, `They're not going to win this many games,' " Olshey said. "The only known was Damian. Nobody else knew what C.J. could do."

McCollum's scoring outburst in last year's playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies generated optimism from fans and media alike, but those within the Blazers' organization knew they had a back court duo to build on for years to come. Lillard and McCollum have sped up the rebuilding process, already putting the Blazers in playoff position and trending upward.

"It's coming together quicker than everybody expected -- except for us two," Lillard said. "We are friends. I want to see him do well, he wants to see me do well. I think it's the fact that we spend so much time around each other; whereas you play with a guy and he might be in competition with you, trying to one-up and all of that stuff. We spend so much time around each other that that makes it even more easy. So it has been fun."

Thomsen delves into topics such as the Blazers' defensive evolution, McCollum's background and current involvement in journalism, and more in his full article, which can be read, here.

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