During Thursday’s NBA draft, the Trail Blazers selected senior Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum with the 10th pick in the first round.
The young guard shows promise with his experience as a Lehigh Mountain Hawk, but he’ll need to focus on a few key things in order to develop in Portland.
Gel with Damian Lillard
Most importantly, McCollum will need to develop not only as an individual player but as a partner guard to last year’s star rookie point guard, Damian Lillard.
Given that only Will Barton and Wesley Matthews from last season are guaranteed to return to the guard position in Portland this year, McCollum will surely see some serious minutes alongside Lillard.
McCollum seems optimistic about his partnership with Lillard.
According to ASAP Sports, McCollum said of he and Lillard as a guard pair, “I think offensively we're both going to be a handful, scoring in multiple ways.”
The 21-year-old guard continued, “We have scoring off the dribble. We have scoring—playing off the ball. One of the things people don't know is we're both unselfish. For a win we want to do whatever is necessary to win. People will see that as we get to play together.”
Lillard had a breakout 2012-13 season, averaging 19.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. He was even honored with the NBA’s coveted Rookie of the Year prize for his exceptional ball game.
Lillard and McCollum are close in age—Lillard is 22 years old—and McCollum is now pretty much in the same position as Lillard was a year ago, so the two have a lot in common. As long as McCollum maintains such optimism and learns from his talented peer, the two could really make a good pair of point and shooting guards.
Keep Up the Scoring
Being a good match for Lillard means McCollum will need to take Lillard’s many assists and shoot. Last season with Lehigh, McCollum averaged an impressive 23.9 points per game. He also registered a field-goal percentage of .495 and a three-point percentage of .368.
Obviously, McCollum can shoot, and he will prove a huge asset to the Trail Blazers if his college shooting carries over to his professional play.
Undoubtedly, he will be up against tougher defensive players and will need to adjust. But as long as he makes good shot choices and focuses on getting the ball to the hoop often, he will eventually thrive.
Keep Up the Rebounding
McCollum is not an enormous guy in comparison to other basketball players—he stands at 6’3" and weighs 200 lbs—but he’s still a pretty solid rebounder. During his 2012-13 season with Lehigh, the guard averaged 5.0 rebounds per game.
The more possessions Portland has, the more scoring chances it has. McCollum’s rebounding will help gain these possessions. A team with successful rebounders—not only big men but also guards—is certainly a team to reckon with.
McCollum needs to continue to go after the boards just like he did in college in order to prove himself a versatile, well-rounded member of the Trail Blazers’ squad.
He’s got talent and experience, but McCollum also has a lot of excitement for his future with the Portland Trail Blazers.
As ASAP Sports reported, McCollum said after he was drafted, “It's a blessing to be able to play in the NBA. It's even more blessing to be able to play with Rookie of the Year. A guy you can learn from. A guy who has been in similar situations as you.”
He added, “He seemed like he's where I'm trying to get. He has a great understanding of the game. He's had a huge impact his rookie year. One of two rookies to play all 82 games. He led the NBA in minutes. I got a lot to learn and I look forward to it.”
This excitement will help propel McCollum as he learns and develops in Portland.
His statistics show that he has a lot of promise. As long as he maintains this level of excitement, C.J. McCollum will be fueled to thrive as a rookie in Portland during the 2013-14 season.
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