Before a broken foot sidelined him for 25 games, Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum’s game looked to be reaching a new, never-before-seen dimension that had some suggesting he was due for his first All-Star appearance. Among the key reasons, McCollum had a more selective shot diet, something that The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor took a deep dive look into on a recent episode of The Void and in Monday’s Power Rankings.
In 2020-21, McCollum and the Blazers are making a concerted effort to get their guard more looks from 3-point range, as opposed to longer 2-point attempts. As O’Connor notes, two key factors that have played a role in that are: (1) setting those spread and side pick-and-rolls much further out to give McCollum more space to operate, and (2) more side steps into 3-pointers instead of the customary dribble pull-up.
That focus on the extra point has been beneficial; McCollum is averaging career-bests in points per game (23.8), true shooting percentage (58.5%), and 3-point attempts (9.8), while shooting 41.1 percent of them, while not wholly sacrificing the benefits of his midrange ability when his team is in a bind.
On the flip side, that aversion to getting to the rim has McCollum on the cusp of making “history,” as O’Connor brought out.
“The odd part about McCollum is how infrequently he’s getting to the rim. 343 players have had a season averaging over 20 points per game. And only five of them averaged 20 points while attempting under 11 percent of their shots at the rim.”
The list as of today: Dirk Nowitzki (twice), Allan Houston (twice), D’Angelo Russell, Glenn Robinson, and pre-prime Stephen Curry.
It does offer intrigue as to what we one should expect from McCollum going forward. He admitted his back injury has hampered some of his athleticism. And historically, McCollum has a tendency to draw more whistles and be more aggressive come postseason time. Consider that perhaps something to watch for.
For those interested, O’Connor goes deeper in detail on this episode of The Void and then again in his Power Rankings. The links can be found above.