The Cleveland Cavaliers will have a top-six pick and the 19th pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 27. Today, we profile C.J. McCollum.
Tale of the Tape
Name: C.J. McCollum
Weight: 190 lbs.
Honors: 2010, 2012 Patriot League Player of the Year, 3-time All-Patriot League 1st Team, 2-time Honorable Mention All-America (AP)
2012-2013 Per Game Stats: 23.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 49.5 FG%, 51.6 3FG%, 84.9 FT%
Suffered Season-ending foot injury in January
We’ve discussed centers and small forwards as the top two needs for the Cavs in this draft. However, the Cavs have a very interesting situation coming up with their shooting guards. Dion Waiters will be back, of course, but C.J. Miles is on a team option, Wayne Ellington is a restricted free agent and Boobie Gibson is mercifully completely off the books. This means that, were there a quality shooting guard available who had some versatility and could come off the bench right away, the Cavs might consider bringing them on. One player like this, who the Cavs will have potential to draft with either of their picks, is C.J. McCollum.
(Via Draft Express)
McCollum is a 6-3 shooting guard. Since this is rather short for a shooting guard, he gets classified as a combo guard and will be expected to play the point as well as off the ball. While not particularly physically gifted, McCollum’s game as a pure scorer overcomes this. He’s not the quickest or most athletic guard you’re ever going to see; that isn’t really a problem. What is a potential red flag is McCollum’s foot injury, which brought his senior year to a screeching halt against VCU in January. The injury McCollum suffered is called a Jones fracture, a fracture of the fifth toe’s metatarsal. What’s good about this injury is that it is not a stress fracture, which can be very problematic and have ruined the careers of many players, such as Bill Walton and Yao Ming. This fracture was simply a freak occurrence, and assuming McCollum’s rehab went without issues (which this article indicates), McCollum shouldn’t see any ill effects long-term of his unfortunate setback that ruined his senior season.
Here’s why McCollum’s label of a “combo guard” isn’t technically correct: McCollum will fair much better in the NBA as a shooting guard than he would as a point guard. McCollum’s an outstanding scorer, someone comfortable shooting from anywhere on the floor, in any number of situations. He can create his own shot off the dribble with ease, even from deep. This is perhaps his strongest area on offense. He’s also pretty good at scoring coming off screens, hitting over 50 percent on these shots this season via his smooth, high-release jumper. That jumper will really help him overcome his height because he releases it over his head in a quick motion, exactly what a smaller scorer needs. He’s not too bad at attacking his defender and getting to the rim either. McCollum will score points in the NBA. This is a simple fact. Will he be efficient at it? That remains to be seen, as McCollum did show a tendency to be quite Jordan Crawford-like early in his career with his shot selection. However, when you’re as multi-talented at putting the ball in the hoop as McCollum is, that’s tolerable.
Many teams will want McCollum to be a point guard because of his size. This is a pretty reasonable request, and Lehigh did run McCollum out as a point guard many times throughout his career. However, his skills as a point guard aren’t fantastic. McCollum struggles to find open shooters in halfcourt sets, and if he gets trapped, he flounders. PNR is not the offense you want to run with McCollum as your primary ball handler. McCollum is solid when running the floor because he has excellent court vision, so perhaps a faster-paced offense would do him well. Ultimately I think McCollum’s going to end up playing both spots but will have more success off the ball offensively.
Quite simply, McCollum is a wonderful off-ball defender and terrible on-ball defender. Off the ball, McCollum will have the ability to prowl around, be sneaky and use his superior court awareness to jump passing lanes, block shots and generally be a pain for the opposing team. He’s also great with rotations and surprisingly good at PNR defense. On the ball, however, is a completely different story. McCollum really doesn’t know what he’s doing on the ball, failing to cut off the opponent’s dominant hand, and he doesn’t react quickly to when his guy makes a move. It’s almost sort of bizarre to watch him attempt to guard someone on the perimeter. Ideally, McCollum will need to be someone who guards someone who isn’t a threat offensively where he will be free to prowl. Realistically, you want him paired with a quick, good on-ball defender, because if he’s on an island defending a really good point guard, he will bleed points.
McCollum’s a pretty smart player, which hopefully should make up for his volume-shooter tendencies offensively. His basketball IQ is very good, and he excels in making the extra pass when needed and drawing contact, as well as exploiting mismatches. McCollum is also 21, which might shy some teams away from taking him because you have to wonder just how much we’re going to see him develop. This is concerning for his defense more than his offense, but it’s going to be really interesting to try to watch him transition into the NBA point guard role. Here’s where many would question if he can make the leap from Lehigh to the NBA, but Lehigh made two NCAA tournaments with McCollum and the Mountain Hawks upset Duke in 2012, and he’s played well against several tough teams like Kansas, Baylor and Xavier. Also, Damian Lillard was fine coming from Weber State, so I think that really isn’t a factor. The guy can play.
McCollum is Stephen Curry, only to a lesser degree. Both were combo guards coming from small schools that looked a lot more comfortable as shooting guards than they did as point guards. This gives hope that McCollum can be an effective point guard still, as Curry has definitely become that this season. Both aren’t great athletes, but can score from anywhere and are cagey off-ball defenders. I don’t want to say that McCollum is the next Curry because I don’t think he’ll approach Curry’s level of production. However, I do think that they have very similar backgrounds and styles of play.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
McCollum would be able to back up both Irving and Waiters, which the Cavs need because they’ll be thin at both spots without Ellington, Gibson and Shaun Livingston. He’d be able to deliver an offensive punch off the bench, something any team would want. Letting Irving, Waiters and McCollum develop together would potentially create some wonderful offense, and with Mike Brown there’s a chance all three would actually learn how to play on-ball defense. Really I only see two drawbacks to the Cavs drafting McCollum, and that’s one of them. At least immediately, having Irving and McCollum together would bleed points. McCollum would almost have to spend most of his time at point, or the Cavs would have to pair him with Alonzo Gee to hide him with a good on-ball defender, and there the Cavs would be woefully undersized. The other potential issue I see is that the Cavs don’t draft in a position where McCollum would be drafted. Even if the Cavs are picking sixth, I think that’s too early for McCollum, and it’s highly unlikely that he would be available late. However, McCollum is one of those guys that I could see taking a tumble on draft night due to his size and teams not fully understanding his injury. If McCollum is available at 19, and the Cavs have snagged a rim protector or small forward with their first pick, then they can pull the trigger on McCollum.