RTC NBA Draft Profiles: C.J. McCollumPosted by BHayes on June 25th, 2013
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take fromNBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name: C.J. McCollum
Height/Weight: 6’3”/197 lbs.
NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Projected Draft Range: Lottery
Overview: College basketball just wasn’t the same in 2013, as one of America’s favorite players played just 15 minutes of college basketball after the New Year arrived. C.J. McCollum broke his foot on January 5 in a game at VCU, an injury that would wind up closing down one of the most accomplished college hoops careers of recent memory. Loyal college basketball fans have known about the kid making noise in the Patriot League for some time now, but he made his formal introduction to America in March 2012, when his 30-point performance paced #15-seeded Lehigh to an upset victory over the #2-seeded Duke Blue Devils. It was hard not to notice that McCollum was the best player on the floor that night, and in a game against a team full of NBA talent, mind you. His draft stock was off and running at that point, and even the January injury has done little to slow the momentum. McCollum is now fully healthy and teams don’t seem concerned about the foot, leaving the Lehigh graduate poised to become just the second first-round pick ever selected out of the Patriot League. Questions remain about whether McCollum is a point guard or shooting guard at the next level, but one way or another, this silky smooth scorer should be able to find ways to put the ball in the bucket in the NBA.
Will Translate to the NBA: McCollum’s game is NBA-ready in a number of ways, but it’s first worth noting that from a personal standpoint, CJ McCollum the kid is also ready. Every year we see players enter the league who are simply not prepared to be a professional in anything. McCollum’s four years at Lehigh have served him well, and the mature, thoughtful and confident former Mountain Hawk is ready to tackle his next challenge. Oh, and his game is also prepared for the jump. He’s an NBA-ready scorer who can shoot the ball from deep and put the ball on the floor. Unlike many players today, he possesses a nice mid-range game which will only prove more useful at the next level. A high IQ player that uses savvy on both ends, McCollum has a knack for jumping passing lanes and getting out in transition. He is also a tremendous rebounder for a guard (over five rebounds a game in all four seasons, including 7.8 caroms per contest as a sophomore), a fact that has to ease a little of the concern that he is too small to play shooting guard in the NBA. More so than most in this draft, C.J. McCollum is ready for all the rigors the NBA has to offer.
Needs Work: As mature as both McCollum and his game are, there are a couple areas in which he will need to improve at the next level. His 6’6” wingspan should make him capable of playing at least some two-guard in the NBA (despite standing just 6’3”), but developing his point guard skills would really enhance his value. His ball-handling is likely already at a competent level for an NBA point guard, but his vision and passing ability – traits he was not asked to hone when he was filling it up at Lehigh – must be better, or at least on display more often. The other knock on McCollum is that he is not an explosive athlete. This is something that’s obviously not going to be changing a whole lot in the coming years, but it does further emphasize the importance of McCollum’s ability to play the one. It’s hard enough to guard NBA two-guards at 6’3”, but without elite athleticism and quickness it gets that much more difficult. Make that transition to the one and McCollum can use his length to bother point guards; if he is forced to stay at the two, he is at a height, strength, and quickness disadvantage – potentially too much to overcome.
Best Case Scenario: McCollum has drawn comparisons to both Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, two other small school alums who made the necessary adjustments to play point guard in the league. The Curry comp makes sense, but Steph’s career to this point would have to probably exceed McCollum’s ceiling by a bit. However, you can expect McCollum to come into the league and score from the get-go, so it shouldn’t be shocking if he can grow into an elite scorer. What will potentially elevate McCollum to Curry’s echelon will be his play-making. If he can capably run the point and get his teammates involved, he’s likely on the cusp of making All-Star teams; without it, his ceiling caps out far lower. Want a reasonable “pretty close to best case scenario” for CJ? How about a career like Mo Williams has had? Similar player (a creative shot-maker who is not a true point guard and lacks elite athleticism) who has made one All-Star team and been a consistent contributor everywhere he’s been. McCollum would do well to carve out a career like Williams has had.
Best NBA Fit: McCollum could go as high as #5 to the Phoenix Suns, but his likely range rests in the mid-to-late lottery. The Detroit Pistons at #8 could be intrigued by McCollum as they seek a backcourt mate for Brandon Knight. Knight’s size (for a point guard) would be a nice safety net if McCollum ends up being unable to make the transition to that position, and either way you have a backcourt with two capable play-makers. If the Pistons pass, the next team up, the Minnesota Timberwolves, could also be interested in McCollum’s services. All indications are that the T-Wolves are looking to shore up the shooting guard position next to Ricky Rubio, so McCollum could be a nice fit there, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also looming as an option for Minnesota. Finally, the Portland Trailblazers at #10 could elect to go with a small-school superstar for the second consecutive draft. A Lillard-McCollum backcourt would be a little undersized, but they would certainly not be starved for offensive firepower.
Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “Combination guard whose game is marked by a lethal capacity for scoring … Averaged 21.9 points per game in 3 ½ seasons in Bethlehem … His off the dribble variety is elite — hesitation, rocker and crossover — excellent shiftiness and ability to burst through an open seam … He can score from anywhere, a truly unpredictable defensive assignment in the half court … McCollum will need to further cultivate his lead guard and team running skills at the next level.. At this point, he profiles as more of a natural scoring, combo guard … Lacks explosive quickness or leaping ability — solid athlete, but at least in part reliant on court craft and change of pace to make due.“