Before breaking his foot in early January, C.J. McCollum was second in the country in scoring at 23.9 points per game. He was fairly unknown until the 2012 NCAA tournament, when McCollum dropped 30 on Duke in a No. 15 over No. 2 seed upset.
There's always a hint of skepticism when dealing with mid-major guards, as it's tough to get a feel for whether their production is a result of NBA tools or just inferior competition. But McCollum has averaged at least 19 points per game in all four of his years at Lehigh, and his consistent dominance and NCAA tournament heroics have made a substantial mark on NBA radars.
At 6'3'', McCollum is undersized for a full-time shooting guard, but has the ball-handling skills and athleticism to act as a secondary ball-handler. He's super quick off the bounce with the ability to change directions and shake defenders out of their Jordans.
Other than that, he's got the frame and size for your typical NBA combo guard, which is the likely role he'll get once he reaches the next level.
Advanced Scoring Repertoire
Unlike most scoring guards who are used to handling the ball, McColllum is equally effective playing off the ball as he is playing on it. He's arguably the most polished scorer in the country when you factor in all the ways he can go out and get buckets.
McCollum is dangerously creative off the dribble. He's beyond shifty, with the ability to go right, left and then right again before turning his defender around while he blows by him on the way to the rim.
But what makes McCollum so crafty is his ability to recognize open space and get to the spot. He uses the dribble to create and ultimately find that one spot on the floor where he has room to stop, set, rise and fire.
Below, he gets the ball screen leading him left, but when McCollum sees the help defender ready to hedge, he quickly changes direction, goes right, hits the open space and pulls up for the jumper:
What differentiates McCollum from most scoring guards is his ability to separate on the perimeter and knock down shots off balance. The step-back jumper is his signature move. Though not an easy shot, it's nearly impossible to contest. This allows McCollum to create scoring opportunities for himself when the driving lane isn't always available.
Along with the step-back jumper, McCollum is also lethal with his pull-up. He's got deep NBA range, with the ability to shoot over the top of the defense from a good 26 feet from the hoop.
While most volume scorers need the ball in their hands, McCollum has a good feel as an off-guard. He moves extremely well without the ball and demonstrates sweet rhythm as a catch and shooter. Before going down with an injury, he was actually shooting 33-of-64 (51.6 percent) from behind the arc as a senior
Being able to play on and off the ball will allow him to play alongside point guards or shooting guards, maximizing his potential opportunity for minutes.
Below are two examples of McCollum using a screen to get open before catching, squaring and releasing with balance.
Rarely is it necessary to comment on a guard's rebounding abilities, but McCollum is a different story. He's never averaged below five boards per game, and actually pulled in 7.8 per game as a sophomore. He's quick to anticipate and position himself under the glass and isn't afraid of contact.
McCollum is also a smart defender. He usually makes at least one steal a game that results in a breakaway layup the other way. Defending on the ball at the next level won't be so easy, but his defensive IQ leads me to believe he'll find ways to make up for his physical limitations.
Though his role at Lehigh is to score and he doesn't have much of a supporting cast, McCollum hasn't shown much as a facilitator. Before going down with an injury, he was sporting a 2.9-to-2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio, and he's never averaged more than 3.5 assists in a season.
One of the reasons his assist rate is low is because most of his offense comes from outside the paint. He's not exactly a breakdown guard. McCollum does most of his damage scoring east and west on the perimeter, and not north and south as a penetrator.
Because of his size, McCollum will have to run the point for stretches throughout a game. He's just not big enough to guard most NBA 2-guards. And at the point, his primarily responsibility will be to set the table for teammates, something he hasn't been used to over his last four years at Lehigh.
NBA Draft Analysis and Pro Outlook
McCollum's ability to splash the nets will be coveted by teams looking for offensive firepower in the backcourt. He hasn't proven he's starting point guard material, but he fits the bill as a prolific scoring combo guard who can shoot, generate offense and handle the ball.
He'll enter the draft with a scorer's label on his forehead. Players who enter the draft with predetermined labels are easier to seek out by NBA teams who know what they're looking for.
His broken foot shouldn't hurt his draft stock. We've seen enough of McCollum at this point where we know what he's capable of.
McCollum has a chance to be one of those sixth men whose job is to provide instant offense off the bench.
Detroit, Minnesota and Portland all seem like reasonable possibilities later in the lottery.
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