TrueHoop: C.J. McCollum

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 8 grades

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz

Nine notable performances from Day 8 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:

Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: A-
He exercised a level of control that we hadn’t seen from him in this setting yet. Because Parker is so strong off the bounce, sometimes he loses sight of when it’s appropriate to change speeds. When you see the mix of a few balanced, smooth pull-up jumpers combined with those power moves in the lane, you begin to understand how much potential as a scorer Parker really has when he assesses the defense properly. --Foster

Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers | Grade: C-plus
Defenders don’t respect Randle’s jumper, but that can actually play to his advantage in a weird Rajon Rondo sort of way. With the provided space vacated by his defender when he faces up and isolates, Randle can build momentum, put it on the deck and get his man on his heels before lowering a shoulder. After the game, opposing forward Jerrelle Benimon called Randle "a train.” He had some issues finishing at the rim once he got there (5-for-14), but you care more about the process than the results. --Foster

Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: B-minus
Here’s Exum’s night in a nutshell. On a late fourth-quarter possession, he attempted to turn the corner going left and was turned away easily at the rim by the big man in waiting. The very next possession, in nearly the exact same situation, Exum effectively froze the help defense with a side-step dribble before tossing up a soft floater over the top. It’s always nice to see a young guard decide not to keep banging his head against the wall. --Foster

Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves | Grade: B-plus
When we say someone is a project, it usually implies that a player has the body and athleticism to succeed in the NBA, but he’s yet to develop the necessary skill set. LaVine, in that sense, is a project who deserves some clarification. He has the body and athleticism. He also has a handle along with the ability to shoot and finish in traffic. He just doesn’t always make the right decision. Friday, though, he looked impressively aggressive in spurts, getting to the line 10 times in the game and turning the ball over just once in the first half. If he were as careful with the rock in the second half as he was in the first, he would’ve earned himself a perfect grade. -- Katz

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz | Grade: B-plus
A lot of Gobert’s shot-blocking ability has to do with his length, naturally, but he also could be the next big benefactor of the “verticality” rule that has allowed Roy Hibbert to anchor one of the league’s best defenses over the last few years. Defending without fouling is always a challenge for young shot-blockers, but Gobert displayed some good lateral mobility along with the patience to stay down and keep himself in rebounding position. --Foster

T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns | Grade: C
Warren finally had a subpar offensive performance, shooting 3-for-11 and failing to hit the 20-point mark for only the second time in Las Vegas. Still, he used his impressive length well, cutting off passing lanes and contributing in help defense. He’s long enough that we could start calling him “Warren Peace.” --Katz

Bruno Caboclo, Toronto Raptors | Grade: B
Caboclo continued his inconsistency, this time trending upward. What we’ve learned about the 18-year-old rookie on defense remained true in the Raptors’ win over the Clippers: He may get caught looking in the wrong direction often, but his 7-foot-7 wingspan can make up for it. Though he often hangs around in the right corner on offense, he looked a little more active against the Clips, tipping a few boards to teammates and getting to the hoop from distances where “normal” players wouldn’t be able to reach the rim. -- Katz

Kevin Jones, D-League Selects | Grade: B-plus
If you haven’t watched Jones since his collegiate days at West Virginia, you might be shocked to see how broad the formerly scrawny forward’s shoulders have become. Jones has size, and he uses it now to his advantage, especially as a screen setter. The former Mountaineer is adamant about bodying guys up on his picks. He’ll set a ball-screen, then re-screen, and then screen again just for the heck of it until he finally pins a guy so he can pop open. Friday, his physicality worked to the tune of 21 points and nine boards. -- Katz

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: A
Another day, another scoring outburst from McCollum, who dropped 21 points on the Jazz in his final summer league contest. The former first-round selection picked apart the Utah defense with his jumper, sinking attempts from all over the floor, mostly away from the rim. McCollum now leaves Vegas without scoring fewer than 16 points in any game, pretty consistent for a guy who spent too much of his rookie season banged up and on the sidelines. -- Katz

Las Vegas Summer League, Day 5 grades

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
By D.J. Foster

Nine notable performances from Day 5 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:

Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: C
An average outing in the second part of a back-to-back? He’s got this NBA thing down already. The level of aggression offensively wasn’t quite the same as it had been in previous games, as Exum willingly deferred to others instead of really forcing the issue and creating offense. The limited minutes probably didn’t help him stand out much, but most of the decision-making was fine. This was just a scaled-back effort.

Will Barton, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: B
Remember those “my fast is faster than your fast” commercial spots? It really feels that way when Barton takes the floor, as he flies up and down the court at a breakneck pace. Don’t mistake his energy as a cover-up for a lack of skill, though, because Will “The Thrill” displayed great shake off the dribble to get into the paint early and often, gashing the interior defense. The between-the-legs alley-oop to Thomas Robinson wasn’t half bad, either.

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: A-
McCollum is a really sneaky athlete, mainly because it factors into situations you don’t normally pay much attention to. For example, McCollum gets a ridiculous amount of elevation on his jumper, which allows him to pull up off his own dribble or shoot right over the top of a closing defender. After hitting six 3-pointers and tallying 28 points, McCollum is making it clear he’s a spot-up threat defenses are going to have a whale of a time with going forward.

Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls | Grade: A
There’s a lot of legwork that goes into getting an open look when you’re a shooter with his reputation, but McDermott has the rare ability to read a defense while he’s on the move. Multiple times after manipulating his man into a screen, McDermott burned the overcompensating help defense with a picture-perfect pocket pass. He gets it.

Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: A-
Could a sophomore second-round pick end up stealing the summer league MVP award? Rice may not bring the hype that accompanies the fresher faces, but he once again looked a cut above his competition. Rice’s game is all about explosiveness.

Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns | Grade: B+
We were robbed of seeing the only two projected starting centers in Vegas go up against one another when Nerlens Noel sat out, but Plumlee put on a nice show against the Sixers regardless. Given his production last year and his role going forward, it’s a bit surprising to see Plumlee here, but it’s evident he’s working hard on becoming a better rim protector and defensive presence. In order to take the next step, Phoenix will need that from him.

T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns | Grade: A
He didn’t earn the bandage over his eye by accident. Warren was a human wrecking ball offensively, smashing his way to whatever spot on the floor he desired before simply overpowering his defender for easy buckets. It’s not very often you see a perimeter player rack up 28 points with no threes, but Warren seems to get the best of every physical exchange he gladly partakes in. If he ever develops 3-point range, watch out.

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves | Grade: D-
Muhammad once again elicited groans from his hometown crowd for his selfish play, as he chucked his way to a 3-for-15 night while providing almost nothing across the board. At this point you have to begin to wonder if Muhammad, whose lone strength is his ability to bully smaller defenders, really belongs in a league in which he’s regularly outworked. On the bright side, he did register his first assist in three games, so at least there’s that.

Cameron Bairstow, Chicago Bulls | Grade: B+
It’s unfortunate for Bairstow that Chicago’s frontcourt is so loaded, because it sure looks like he’s an NBA quality big man. On defense he’s physical and doesn’t give up ground, but on offense he’s more of a finesse guy who can step away from the rim, pass from the elbow and really knock in midrange jumpers at a high clip. He’s the best player in Vegas that looks like "Karate Kid" villain William Zabka, by far.

Las Vegas Summer League, Day 2 grades

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
By D.J. Foster

Ten notable performances from Day 2 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:

Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks | Grade: C-
Here’s the Tim Hardaway Jr. basketball logic tree: Am I open? Shoot it. Am I covered? Shoot it. Someone else has the ball? Do nothing until I get it ... and then shoot it. Hardaway put up 16 attempts in 25 minutes and registered zero rebounds, zero assists and zero steals. Knicks teammate J.R. Smith catches a lot of heat for chucking, but Hardaway makes him look like a regular Magic Johnson by comparison.

Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets | Grade: A
Is there a little more to Harris than originally projected? The Michigan State guard split defenders and attacked in the pick-and-roll game, looking more like a complete wing scorer than a limited 3-and-D guy. Even though 3-point shooting was his calling card (5-for-10 from deep) and should continue to be going forward, the whole package was on display.

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: B
Even on an iffy shooting night (4-for-11), it’s easy to see why McCollum is a big-time scorer in the making. Rarely do you find a wing with this combination of size, shake and shooting ability, and perhaps more importantly, the smarts to use those skills and base an attack around threes and free throws. Making even your worst shooting nights palatable is an underrated aspect of being a quality scorer, and McCollum can do just that.

Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: B
With Trevor Ariza off to the Houston Rockets and Martell Webster out with another back surgery, the third pick in the 2013 draft might have to grow up in a hurry. Porter is a little reminiscent offensively of Tayshaun Prince, as he curls well off baseline screens and uses his length to shoot over the top on contested midrange jumpers. While you’d like to see him extend his range, establishing a comfort zone might be more important for the time being.

Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: B+
There are a lot of aggressive dudes at Summer League trying to bully and pound their way onto a roster, but no one attacked the rim on Saturday quite like Rice. In just 26 minutes, Rice went to the line a whopping 16 times. Considering he’s a better athlete and shooter than Porter, Rice could really syphon some minutes from Porter this season if he keeps up this level of aggression offensively.

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves | Grade: C+
Muhammad has mastered the art of throwing garbage up at the rim while simultaneously creating space with his huge frame for an easier putback attempt after securing the offensive rebound (7 on the game). I’m not entirely sure that’s a viable strategy against better athletes, but Muhammad’s whole bag is non-traditional scoring.

Justin Holiday, Golden State Warriors | Grade: A
It’s not often you see a player smile while making a game-winner, but Holiday couldn’t help but grin as he caught an airball (or a Kobe assist?) under the basket to flip in, effectively keeping Golden State’s summer league winning streak alive and well. Holiday has always lacked a “specialty” that really appeals to NBA teams, but his smooth all-around game and length served him well Saturday.

Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls | Grade: A
Maybe Doug McDermott loaned out his jumper for the evening, as it was Snell who stole the show in his debut by hitting just about everything he put up (10-for-14, 27 points) while McDermott struggled (2-for-8). Chicago can always use more perimeter shooting and scoring, and Snell looked confident firing from deep and flying in with long strides on drives to the rim.

Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: A-
Hype machine, activate! Comparisons to a young Kobe Bryant, Penny Hardaway and Brandon Roy were flying around after Exum’s first game, and his displays of smooth athleticism and skill were often breathtaking. Although there were better overall performances elsewhere, no one flashed more star potential than Exum did. With his vision and first step, he has lead guard written all over him.

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz | Grade: B
Sometimes all it takes for players with high motors is one positive play to start a chain reaction. That happened for Gobert a few times, as a block or a steal would lead to an offensive rebound, which would then turn into an easy bucket. The consistency isn’t quite there yet, but Gobert absolutely has the natural ability to impact a game defensively in spurts.

C.J. McCollum's #WorldCup takeover

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
C.J. McCollumMike Stobe/Getty ImagesC.J. McCollum was drafted 10th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2013.

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum will be doing player interviews at the 2014 NBA Draft (7 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), but before he made his way to Brooklyn, his attention -- like that of many other Americans -- was focused a bit further south. Brazil, to be specific. McCollum took over the @ESPNNBA Twitter handle during the U.S. Men's National Team's group stage match against Germany, which aired earlier Thursday on ESPN. A recap of his tweets is below.



Follow McCollum on draft night on Twitter: @CJMcCollum

History says point guards are safe picks

June, 25, 2013
By Harold Shelton, ESPN Stats & Info
AP Photo/David J. PhillipTrey Burke (right) is 8th on Chad Ford’s Big Board.
If there's a safe bet to be had in the NBA Draft, history suggests it's taking a point guard in the top five.

Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams, Michigan's Trey Burke and Lehigh's C.J. McCollum are currently seven, eight and nine on Chad Ford's Big Board, with Burke projected to go 7th overall to the Sacramento Kings.

But if one of them, or any other available point guard, slides into the top five, history says the team making the selection should have quite the find.

Going back 30 years, there have been 25 point guards selected in the top five. In chronological order, starting in 1990, they are:

Gary Payton, Chris Jackson (later, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), Kenny Anderson, Penny Hardaway, Jason Kidd, Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Chauncey Billups, Antonio Daniels, Mike Bibby, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Jay Williams, Shaun Livingston, Devin Harris, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Raymond Felton, Mike Conley, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, John Wall and Kyrie Irving.

And this is what that group has accomplished, by the numbers:

• 15 made at least one All-Star team (Payton, Anderson, Hardaway, Kidd, Iverson, Marbury, Billups, Francis, Davis, Harris, D. Williams, Paul, Rose, Westbrook, Irving)

• 12 made multiple All-Star teams (everyone above except Anderson, Harris and Irving)

• Seven Rookies of the Year (Kidd, Iverson, Francis, Paul, Rose, Evans, Irving)

• Six won an Olympic gold medal (Payton, Hardaway, Kidd, Paul, D. Williams, Westbrook)

• Four won an NBA title (Payton, Kidd, Daniels, Billups)

• Four led the league in assists (Payton, Kidd 3 times, Marbury, Paul twice)

• Three won multiple Olympic gold medals (Payton, Paul, D. Williams)

• Two NBA MVPs (Iverson, Rose)

• One Finals MVP (Billups)

• One Most Improved Player (Jackson)

• One Basketball Hall of Fame inductee this year (Payton)

Of the 12 top-five point guards drafted before 2000, all played at least nine seasons.

And of the 13 top-five point guards drafted this millennium, eight made an All-Star team or won Rookie of the Year.

So what do you get in drafting a point guard in the top five?

History says that even at their worst, you get a serviceable player who will have a long career in the league.

At their best, they're at least an All-Star and could be one of the league’s best.