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How Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum use Screens to Get Their Shots

Scott Rafferty of Fansided analyzes the nuanced differences between how Lillard and McCollum use screens.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday morning, Scott Rafferty of published an article highlighting the dynamic scoring abilities of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Particularly, how vital the pick-and-roll scheme is to their respective games and how each uses the screen differently to set up shots.

First, he tackles how McCollum is able to use screens to get to his bread and butter—the midrange.

Recently, there have been plenty of people around the league heralding McCollum’s shooting ability and Rafferty takes a minute to highlight just how good McCollum has become.

In general, McCollum wants to get something from midrange when he’s involved in a pick-and-roll. Only Russell Westbrook (10.5), Chris Paul (9.7) and DeMar DeRozan (9.3) create a greater number of points per game from pull-ups than McCollum (9.0) on the season and he converts 45.9 percent of his looks from that distance. For comparison, Lillard ranks No. 11 behind the likes of Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Carmelo Anthony and John Wall with 7.1 pull-up points per game at a 34.3 percent clip.

Further, Rafferty uses video (along with supporting text) to break down how McCollum has screens set for him to best take advantage of opposing defenses.

To help McCollum get in position to pull-up from midrange, the Blazers big men usually set screens for him with at least one foot inside the 3-point line. That way, McCollum has the space to pull-up if his defender goes under the screen. Alternatively, he can easily walk into a jump shot around the free throw line if they go over the screen. It’s basically what we see from DeRozan, only McCollum is also a threat to step back for a 3-pointer if his defender insists on going underneath the screen.

Turning to Lillard, the Yin to McCollum’s Yang, Rafferty breaks down Lillard’s strengths in the pick-and-roll and (again with the aid of video) shows exactly how Lillard is able to capitalize on “MoreyBall” shots.

The first thing to note about Lillard is he can shoot from deep. Compared to McCollum, he’s more comfortable dribbling up the court and pulling-up from several feet behind the 3-point line, or running off of screens for shots only Stephen Curry can hit. It explains why 63.2 percent of McCollum’s 3-pointers come without a dribble and 52.4 percent of Lillard’s 3-pointers come after at least one dribble.

Lillard’s thought process in the pick-and-roll basically falls into one of two categories:

Can he curl off of the screen for a 3-pointer?

If not, can he use the threat of a 3-pointer to get to the basket?

You can see the differences between how and where screens are set for both Lillard and McCollum but Rafferty also suggests that both players will utilize “each others” screens to keep opposing defenses guessing.

That’s why these screens aren’t necessarily exclusive to Lillard or McCollum. Lillard will sometimes pull up from mid-range with a McCollum screen and McCollum can pull-up off the dribble from 3-point range if the Blazers set a Lillard screen on him. McCollum even gets those opportunities when he takes over as the point guard of the second unit. But when they do steal each other’s screens in the pick-and-roll, it acts as a curveball. Defenses know their tendencies, so being able to mix it up on the fly means they’re always in the driver’s seat.

The entire piece is quite in-depth and covers a lot of minutiae that is often overlooked when discussing the differences in McCollum and Lillard’s offensive approach. It serves as a great starting point for anyone wanting to understand how the little things in the pick-and-roll game can be game-changing. Read the full article, here.