Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum has been on fire this year and its time Daryl Morey and the Sixers turned their attention his way.
Through his first seven games this year, CJ McCollum has scored 23.7 points per game on 44.4% from the field, 42.6% from three (on 10 threes attempted per night!!), and 68.8% from the free-throw line. He is currently leading the Trail Blazers in points per game while also contributing 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals.
With reports coming out that Damian Lillard is apparently “obsessed” with the idea of playing with Draymond Green (just demand a trade already), speculation has started growing about the 76ers potentially joining in on a three-team trade where disgruntled point guard Ben Simmons would go to the Warriors, Draymond Green would grant Dame’s wish, and currently-on-fire guard CJ McCollum would end up on the Philadelphia 76ers.
The ramifications of this trade would alter the potential landscape of the league, turning both the 76ers and the Warriors into potential contenders and turning the Trailblazers from a 6th seed to maybe a 5th seed? Maybe?
I am not really sure how Dame thinks this makes his team better, but here we are. The Sixers would get legitimately better with the addition of McCollum; however, the idea of CJ being the lead perimeter creator caused some questions to arise.
Is CJ McCollum just a shooting guard? Or could he play the point?
In CJ McCollum, Joel Embiid would be getting the single best perimeter creator that he has ever played with. The concern is that with still no Simmons and the lack of growth from Tyrese Maxey this year, that no direct improvement would be able to be found at point guard other than going through the free-agent market and waiting for the buyout market to develop.
That spawns the idea of perhaps running a lineup that starts CJ McCollum at point guard, allowing Seth Curry to remain the starter and give a lineup of McCollum – Curry – Green – Harris – Embiid. This would be instantly one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, allowing for Embiid to dominate down and low and be surrounded by four excellent three-point shooters.
On top of this, looking into his advanced statistics, you can see that CJ McCollum posted an assist percentage of 23.0%, which is a top 50 ranking in the NBA, higher than stars like Jamal Murray, Bradley Beal, and Brandon Ingram. CJ McCollum also ranks higher than traditional point guards like Elfrid Payton (21.6%), Kendrick Nunn (14.5%), Coby White (21.8%), and Jalen Brunson (21.3%).
The only Sixer above McCollum was Ben Simmons, who ranked 18th in the league. The next highest Sixer was Shake Milton at 61st. The fact that CJ has such a high assist percentage and was able to post 4.7 assists per game on a team where he was hardly ever running the offense alone shows his potential as a passer and his possible fit at point guard for Philadelphia. This leaves another question available for investigation, though.
Without Damian Lillard, would CJ McCollum be better or worse?
Over the course of his career, CJ McCollum has taken a backseat (rightfully so) to Damian Lillard in terms of backcourt creation and scoring. McCollum has been a good and consistent player next to Dame, scoring at least 20 points per game for the past seven years on 45.47/40.24/80.86 shooting splits over the same seven years. It is fair to ask whether CJ could take on that primary creator role for the 76ers or if a bigger role would make it harder on him.
According to StatMuse, CJ McCollum has played only 33 games without Damian Lillard, and while this is a small sample size, the numbers tell the story of someone who is ready and capable of being a number one creator.
Over the course of 33 games without Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum has averaged 28.1 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, and 6.2 assists per game on 45.8/36.0/79.1 shooting splits. His volume during these Dame-less games has been impressive, as well as he shot 23.5 attempts per game and almost 8 three-pointers per game.
While this may still be a small sample size, CJ has shown that both as a secondary option and as a primary option, he is ready to do whatever he can to help his team win games and is willing to step up in big moments. This year, CJ McCollum has been playing the best basketball of his career and would instantly make the Sixers a legitimate contender for that ever-elusive Larry O’Brien Trophy.