NBA Trade Rumors: Should C.J. McCollum Be Moved?

Jan 8, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) reacts after the Golden State Warriors scored during the second quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 8, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) reacts after the Golden State Warriors scored during the second quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Portland Trail Blazers would be wise to move C.J. McCollum while he has great trade value in exchange for better perimeter defense.

There’s no denying C.J. McCollum is blowing up in more circles than just those directly within the Portland Trail Blazers.

Averaging a red-hot 20.7 points per game on .437/.392/.800 shooting splits, McCollum has quietly been one of the most efficient perimeter scorers in the NBA this season.

He’s one half of Portland’s dynamic backcourt that also features star point guard Damian Lillard. Together they’re averaging 45.0 points per game this year, which is nearly 50 percent of the Trail Blazers’ per game total of 101.4 (16th in the league).

Both guards are unique because offensively, handling the ball and playing either the 1 or the 2. Running an offense with two perimeter playmakers benefits Portland greatly because the majority of the team is spot-up shooting wings and big men. That’s a huge reason Lillard and McCollum play a ton of minutes because one or both of them are generally needed on the court.

McCollum’s been a key factor in the Blazers’ offensive attack, but what has he done on the other end of the floor? The answer is not much.

Defensively, McCollum has gotten by with his better-than-average wingspan for his 6’4″ height. He’s a tad undersized for a shooting guard role, but he’s a pesky defender when he’s at his best as he likes to play the passing lanes and go after steal opportunities to get his guys out in transition.

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The problem is he hasn’t been successful gambling on those attempts and instead has let opposing players take him off the dribble or create enough space to get a jump shot off after the missed swipe.

Opponents are shooting 43.3 percent against McCollum this season per He’s been minimally effective challenging two-point shots, but beyond the arc he’s allowing his man to shoot 3.6 percent above the usual percentage that shooter is converting on those looks.

There’s two reasons why that’s happening. The first is that McCollum doesn’t have great size and length so anyone bigger than him has an advantage shooting over him. The second is simply that McCollum isn’t an elite athlete at his position so he’s been late rotating over and closing out on three-point shots. All of this has led to less-than-reliable perimeter defense from him, and even though those raw shooting statistics don’t seem bad the advanced numbers certainly aren’t in his corner.

According to, McCollum’s 1.03 Real Plus/Minus is heavily carried by his offensive game. Defensively he has a -1.54 RPM, which drops him down to No. 8 among his peers at shooting guard. If his RPM wasn’t negative and sat at zero, he would be fourth just behind Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs.

The Trail Blazers don’t need two starting guards who rate poorly on defense (Lillard’s defensive RPM sits at a -3.36), so naturally Portland needs a lockdown wing defender at the 2 in order to better complement its point guard’s skills on offense.

A Lillard trade wouldn’t make sense because he’s better on offense than McCollum given his speed and passing ability. He’s already a proven star, so unfortunately if the Blazers want to upgrade on defense, McCollum would get the boot. Rumors are already swirling after The Oregonian’s John Canzaro wrote that the two probably aren’t the best long-term fit and that McCollum’s value will drop if not moved now.

Unless Portland can convince McCollum to come off the bench while still playing starter’s minutes like Ginobili and Jamal Crawford have done regularly over their careers for a greater defensive focus, they should move him while they can still get great value for him.

McCollum’s only making $2.5 million this season, and with only one year left on his deal any team would be getting quality production on the cheap. Portland could expect to get back an asset or two in the form of young players or draft picks for McCollum. Considering the future of the team is murky with Lillard being the only building block on the roster, the Trail Blazers need all the help they can get.

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There are plenty of teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers that need help scoring on the perimeter so the number of suitors isn’t a problem for Portland. If the right offer comes along that helps them in the short and long-term, the Blazers should pull the trigger on a McCollum deal.