The Portland Trail Blazers trail the Memphis Grizzlies by four games for the final NBA Playoffs spot. Portland could come out of the All-Star break without superstar Damian Lillard, who is nursing a strained groin suffered against Memphis. The Blazers only have 26 games left in their season and must weather the storm if Lillard misses any time.
Mark Bechtel of Sports Illustrated believes CJ McCollum could be a “breakout star” of the NBA’s stretch run if Lillard is out:
The Blazers’ offense relies heavily upon pick-and-rolls with Lillard. Nobody except Trae Young runs more, and nobody in the league runs them as effectively as Lillard, who averages 1.13 points per play on them. McCollum isn’t bad (he’s at 0.90 on about half as many p-and-r’s per game). The question is, what does coach Terry Stotts do? Have McCollum play more like Lillard, or move the ball around more? The latter seems like the obvious way to go—square pegs and round holes and all—but Portland, dead last in the league in assists (by a lot), isn’t exactly stacked with great passers.
Assuming the Blazers survive the stretch that Lillard is out, they are still going to have to start guarding people to have a chance to sneak back into the playoffs. But they’re also going to need an offense that runs more efficiently; Lillard, who is having a career year, can’t do much more. McCollum, though, can.
McCollum is currently averaging 21.3 points with 38.3% shooting from deep in 35.7 minutes per game.
Do you think McCollum will step up down the stretch for the Blazers? Let us know in the comments.