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McCollum’s Pre-Injury RPM Numbers Point to Dominance

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Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum posted the second-best real plus-minus rating in the first quarter of the 2020-21 season.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to suffering a foot fracture, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum was in the middle of putting together a career-best year. In an updated look at the players that have posted the best real plus-minus (RPM) through the first quarter of the season, McCollum’s name took center stage inside ESPN’s list.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton decided to take an in-depth look at individual RPM numbers to help deliver a clear picture of the often unpredictable 2020-21 season. Before getting to the list, Pelton provided a brief refresher on how RPM is put together.

Before we get to that, a quick refresher on RPM. First developed by Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi and now managed in-house by ESPN Analytics with Engelmann having joined the Dallas Mavericks’ front office, RPM incorporates a player’s box-score statistics, advanced statistics generated by Second Spectrum camera tracking and how teams perform with players on and off the court, adjusted for their teammates, opponents and game state.

In regards to McCollum, the Blazers’ guard posted the second-best RPM rating to start the season. Pelton framed McCollum’s +7.3 RPM number by explaining that the former Lehigh standout appeared to have discovered another gear in the 2020-21 campaign.

McCollum is a surprising name to see near the top of the RPM leaderboard, but it’s really more a case of McCollum performing at a level he has never reached before over an extended stretch of his career than anything unique to RPM.

As I noted in writing about McCollum’s untimely foot injury, he led the league in my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric at the time he was sidelined.

McCollum, who only trailed LeBron James on the list, averaged 26.7 points per game through 13 outings this season. In regards to efficiency, McCollum was shootings 44.1 percent from beyond the arc and 47.3 percent from the field before his exit.

You can read Pelton’s full RPM rundown at ESPN+ (subscription required).