The 2013-14 season was a tough one for rookies. There really weren’t any standouts, although Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo showed flashes of greatness from time to time. The Portland Trail Blazers came into the season with a lottery pick in C.J. McCollum and the first pick of the second round — Allen Crabbe. Neither were impressive and both still have a lot of work to do; let’s check out the details.
McCollum got off to a rough start when he found out that he has broken a bone in his left foot, meaning he would miss a good portion of the beginning of the season. He ended up missing the first 35 games due to that injury and when he did get healthy, coach Terry Stotts had nowhere to get him minutes because the team was playing to so well (Portland was 26-9 through those first 35 games). C.J. had pretty big expectations coming into the season and many were making comparisons to the Blazers’ second-year point guard Damian Lillard. I never really saw that, but I don’t think that C.J. is a lost cause by any means.
This kid is a bona fide scoring threat when he’s on the court; whether at Lehigh, in the D-League or playing for the NBA — this guy has proven that he will be around for a long time simply because he can fill it up on demand. McCollum only ended up playing in 38 games in his rookie season (not even half the games). He averaged 12.5 minutes per game with 5.3 points and 1.3 rebounds per night — quite disappointing for the 10th overall pick in the draft last season.
The areas C.J. will need to improve is the same as most of the Blazers — on defense. They struggle mightily on that end of the court and for him to stay on the court consistently, he will have to at least act like he knows what’s going on out there. Mo Williams was Portland’s sixth man this past season and he has already told the team he will decline his player option in hopes of getting a three-year deal to finish out his career. This is C.J.’s chance to work hard this offseason and step right into that microwave role off the bench next season. His ball handling has to improve as well. Many times when he was asked to dribble too much it was evident that a turnover was coming up because he just seemed to lack the poise and presence needed by a lead guard in the NBA.
The expectations are still high for C.J. but I think his second year will be much more telling as to what kind of player we can expect him to be for the immediate and distant future.
If you think C.J. didn’t get much of an opportunity, then you might cry yourself to sleep feeling bad for Crabbe. Allen was the 31st pick in the 2013 NBA draft and he ended up making the Blazers’ roster, which was all well and good, but he only saw the court 15 games this season. It was evident pretty early that with Wes Matthews, Mo Williams and McCollum (once he got back from injury) already manning those scoring guard roles, Crabbe was simply the odd man out.
In his 15 games he averaged 6.7 minutes played and 2.2 points per night. His best game of the year came against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 6 — Portland won 130-98 so Crabbe got some mop up time and scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting and was 2-for-2 from 3-point land. The one thing that Crabbe certainly brings to the table is 3-point shooting, however the issue there is that Portland is already one of the most prevalent 3-point shooting teams in the league (fourth most 3PM with 770). So Allen is going to have to carve out another niche while still being able to produce offensively as well.
Crabbe was the one player that Portland decided to use to utilize their D-League affiliation with the Idaho Stampede. He played six games for Idaho and in those games he averaged 38.5 minutes while also producing 16 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Unfortunately his shooting splits weren’t overly impressive in those games either with splits of .411/.316/.750, so if he’s going to be a specialist, he needs to pick up his efficiency.
To be fair, neither one of these guys got much of a realistic opportunity to really produce during their rookie seasons, but that’s to be expected when you join a 54-win team your first year in the league. I’ve been critical of Stotts’ minutes distribution all season and it really bit them in the ass during the playoffs, so hopefully next season he will develop the young guys a little more and actually utilize them when depth is needed.