C.J. McCollum Is Well Worth His New Contract for the Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard C.J. McCollum has become one of the newest NBA players to reap the benefits of the new salary cap.
McCollum, the NBA's Most Improved Player in the 2015-'16 season, inked a four-year extension worth $106 million.
But McCollum is worth the investment, which keeps him in Portland until 2021.
McCollum won Most Improved Player for a reason.
His per-100 possession marks and efficiency numbers improved nearly across the board in 2015-16.
His effective field goal percentage was a career best -- thanks in part to his career-high in 3-point percentage -- and his free throw percentage skyrocketed.
His rebounds and steals weren't career-high numbers, but they were on par with his rates from his first two campaigns. Similarly, his defensive rating was a career worst, but it wasn't a significant change from his first two seasons.
Perhaps the best takeaway here is that McCollum improved his efficiency (effective field goal percentage) while boosting his usage rate to 27.1%.
Plus, his assists per-100 possessions jumped up noticeably. In terms of assist rate, his 9.8% combined in his first two seasons climbed to 21.6% in 2015-'16. By no means is that an elite number -- his assist rate ranked just 16th among 24 players with a usage rate of at least 27% last season -- but combined with his effective field goal percentage (5th-best), it's a welcomed sight for his growth as an offensive playmaker.
Blazers Without McCollum
Without McCollum on the floor last season, for 1,182 minutes, the Blazers allowed 109.9 points per 100 possessions and scored 106.8, per Basketball-Reference. With him, for 2,779 minutes, they allowed 107.1 and scored 109.5. In all, the Blazers were 5.5 points per 100 possessions better with McCollum on the floor than without him.
Without Damian Lillard and with McCollum on the floor, the Blazers scored 106.8 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA Wowy, which would have ranked them tied for 10th in the NBA with the Boston Celtics -- though it was just above the league average of 106.4. They allowed 105.0 points per 100 possessions, defensively.
Let's compare that to Portland with Lillard and without McCollum in 2015-'16.
|Portland Splits 2015-16||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|Lillard On, McCollum Off||109.4||111.4||-2.0|
|McCollum On, Lillard Off||106.8||105.0||1.8|
None of this is to imply that McCollum is necessarily more valuable than Lillard. Rather, it does at least show that McCollum's on-court impact isn't necessarily linked to Lillard's offensive ability.
And that's something to invest in.
Players this young -- he's 24 -- with this much responsibility -- a 27.1% usage rate -- are pretty rare. Only 69 guards in NBA history have maintained that level of usage at 24 years old or younger since 1973-'74.
McCollum's 51.7% effective field goal percentage ranks 11th-best in this group, just behind Michael Jordan's 51.8% at age 21. That's more coincidence than anything else, as Jordan's mark was 53.7% at age 24, but McCollum's shooting efficiency was significantly better than some of the league's recent standout offensive shooting guards at age 24.
Offensive seasons like this aren't common for players of McCollum's age, and the hefty deal under the new cap is easily worth it in case his game continues to grow.