Breakdown: CJ McCollum’s crafty scoring skills

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum is going to find a way to score.

Whether he’s crossing over an opponent or worming his way through defenders, he regularly hunts for buckets. Though McCollum has never played in an All-Star game, he’s a borderline All-Star talent.

If he played in the East, which isn’t as loaded with quality guards compared to the West, perhaps he would be an All-Star.

A seven-year veteran, McCollum has a career average of 18.4 points per game, scoring at least 20 points per game in the past four seasons; in the 2019-20 campaign, he’s averaging 22.5 points. This season, he’s shooting a career-high 19.5 field goals a game,Β ranking 13thΒ in the league for the category.

What elevates McCollum’s scoring is his quality ball handling. He can go anywhere on the floor because of it. At the beginning of the video below, McCollum curled to the right wing for a pass.

But with Montrezl Harrell right there, McCollum had to make a quick decision. He split Harrell and Temple, squeezing his way through the opening and pushing the ball slightly ahead of him.

Another example of McCollum’s premier ball handling starts at nine seconds in the same video. McCollum was coming down the left side, sizing up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

He dribbled between his legs, then crossed over to put pressure on Gilgeous-Alexander. McCollum did what he does so well — go downhill. He scored the layup as Gilgeous-Alexander fouled him.

McCollum is one half of one of the NBA’s best backcourts, with Damian Lillard being the star.

But McCollum complements Lillard so well because of his slightly different play style. McCollum is more of a midrange scorer, with Lillard being one of the league’s best 3-point shooters.

According to stats, McCollum has scored 19.8% of his points in the midrange this season; Lillard has only scored 7.0% of his points in the same area.

Lillard has scored 40.4% of his points from the 3-point line this season; McCollum has scored 37.4% of his points from deep.

McCollum’s success in the midrange is in part of because of his dribbling as well.Β It’s the ability to create space that enables success in the middle of the floor, and being a good dribbler is an easy way to achieve enough space.

At 22 seconds in the video below, McCollum dribbled between his legs. Once he did that, he got Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris out of position. McCollum then burst to the left with a hard dribble and pulled up for an easy jumper.

The same video has another example of McCollum’s midrange prowess at the 40-second mark. An underrated, yet key part of McCollum’s craftiness is his ability to use screens to help him burst or decelerate.

Here, McCollum got a pick out high to help him skirt past his opponent. With Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams not pressing, McCollum had enough space to pull up for a jumper.

McCollum has been one of the league’s most underrated guards throughout his career. He won the Most Improved Player award in 2016, and during the 2016-17 season, he averaged a career-high 23.0 points a game on a career-best 48.0% shooting.

A wizard with the ball, McCollum knows how to attack players so he can score in multiple ways.


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