It has to be tough to be CJ McCollum. The LeHigh alum and eight-year Portland Trail Blazers veteran comes off of one of his strongest seasons as a professional and is undeniably the best player not named Damian Lillard on the squad. He gets a bucket on any given opponent. Still, McCollum constantly finds himself the subject of trade speculation despite all he’s put in and the skill he’s shown. Whenever a superstar has an expiring contract or wants off of their team, the Portland fanbase salivates at the thought of pairing said superstar with Lillard.
The casualty in all of that? CJ McCollum (and a few of the younger players on the bench more often that not).
For the Blazers to get that second superstar the hypothetical trades include giving up the second in command, McCollum. And it makes sense. McCollum on many other teams is the guy. He can get isolation buckets, stare you down and drop 3-pointers on you, or find an open player for the pretty dime. But when you have a once in a generation talent like Lillard, a player like McCollum tends to take a backseat and to become that hypothetical trade asset.
So when James Harden expanded his potential trade preferences to include the Portland Trail Blazers, it should come as no surprise that the fanbase and local media hypothesized on what it would take to bring the three-time scoring champion to the Blazers. That trade package? Had to include CJ McCollum, of course. It’s not like McCollum doesn’t know, either. He acknowledged as much when asked about said rumors.
Though it appears that Portland GM Neil Olshey is intent on keeping his prized back court together, and McCollum said that the trade rumors didn’t add any fuel, it’s tough to separate his recent performances from the rumor mill. In the overtime victory against Houston on Dec. 26, McCollum dropped 44 points; in the win over the Lakers, he dropped a 20-point double-double; and in a blowout loss to the Clippers on Dec. 30 he led Portland in scoring with 25 points.
So maybe CJ McCollum didn’t have those James Harden trade rumors in the back of his head, but he has made his case for sticking around the Portland Trail Blazers. He’s obviously their second best (or best) weapon on the court, depending on the night. His ability to create his own offense or catch and shoot from beyond the arc are elite across the league. Add onto that his ability to find an open player and get assists, McCollum is an asset that Portland can hang onto and feel good.
Harden will find a team that needs his incredible offensive firepower. The league will always find a space for a scoring threat of his caliber. But Portland it seems is going to hang onto McCollum as long as he can get buckets en masse and, the way things are going, it’s going to be a while. While McCollum’s spot on the team may be secure, his name will more than likely get brought up the next time an elite shooting guard nears free agency.
Oh, hey, what’s up Victor Oladipo?