Fantasy Basketball: Is C.J. McCollum a First-Round Value?
Unfortunately for C.J. McCollum, he's always going to be the second-fiddle on his own team.
That's just the way it works when Damian Lillard is your point guard.
But this season, McCollum has actually provided better fantasy basketball value among these two Portland Trail Blazers guards, as he is the 13th-ranked player on Yahoo! in 9-category leagues. Lillard is 24th.
On a per-game basis, though, Lillard outranks him: 21st to 23rd. Still, getting second-round, per-game value from a player selected 31st overall is a welcomed sight.
The real question, though, is whether or not McCollum can continue to play like a borderline first-round fantasy talent in 2016-17 or how far he might fall by season's end.
McCollum has started all 39 games for Portland this season, putting up averages of 23.6 points, 2.5 three-pointers, 3.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 2.3 turnovers on 48.1% from the field and 90.5% from the line on 3.8 attempts per game.
That's a hefty stat line for sure, and just about every one of those marks is a career best.
McCollum has achieved this with a usage rate of 28.3%, which puts him just outside the top 20. Lillard's, for context, is 30.8%, ranking seventh in the NBA.
McCollum's usage rate shot up to an astounding 37.4% in the five games Lillard missed from December 26th through January 4th. Only Russell Westbrook (42.4%) has carried a higher mark for the full season.
He also showed the NBA that he could do this.
Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum rang in the new year by dropping a career-high 43 points in a 95-89 victory over the Timberwolves 🎊🎉 pic.twitter.com/WjbugzYXAz
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 2, 2017
In that stretch, McCollum upped his assist rate to 29.3%, from 19.8% on the season, while turning it over at a slightly higher rate (11.6% from 10.3%), but it's his efficiency that makes him intriguing moving forward.
In that five-game span without Lillard, McCollum maintained a 54.7% effective field goal percentage with a 60.2% true shooting percentage over 35.9 minutes per game and, again, elevated usage.
In standard fantasy terms, he shot 49.1% from the field on 23.2 attempts per game, including 38.2% from three on 6.8 attempts per game (2.6 makes) and 93.5% from the line on 6.2 attempts per game (5.8 makes).
Of course, it takes a great player to maintain efficiency on increased workloads, and that's what McCollum has proven when given the chance.
His value has been buoyed a bit by not missing a game and a short stint as the go-to guy, so what can we expect moving forward?
The big issue for McCollum is the presence of Lillard, and that'll always be the case. Per NBAWowy, McCollum's usage rate drops to 25.4% with Lillard on the floor. The good news? His effective field goal percentage is a whopping 62.9% with Lillard beside him.
His traditional field goal percentage is 53.5% when playing with Lillard, and he has shot 48.1% from beyond the arc on 156 attempts with Lillard on the floor. For context, the current leader in three-point percentage among 65 players with at least 150 attempts is J.J. Redick at 44.1%.
Even as the second option, McCollum has the efficiency to overcome any volume concerns presented by playing alongside one of the most ball-dominant players in the NBA. And if Lillard happens to miss time, McCollum has shown the ability to carry that efficient play over to bigger workloads.
On a per-game basis, we project McCollum to be the 24th-best fantasy player regardless of position, for the rest of the season. That's not exactly the borderline first-round value he's provided so far, so if you can flip him for a more certain guard, selling high makes sense.
But it's pretty clear that McCollum will finish the year as one of the best early-round picks based on his return on investment.