Full Name: Christian James McCollum
Birthday: September 19, 1991
NBA Draft: 2013, 10th Overall
Current Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Career Highlights: NBA Most Improved Player (2016), NBA All-Star (2018), All-NBA First Team (2019)
As a long-time fan who‘s been following CJ McCollum since his college days at Lehigh, it‘s been an absolute pleasure watching him blossom into one of the NBA‘s most dynamic scorers and clutch performers. His silky smooth jumpshot, crafty finishing ability and fearless mentality make him must-see television whenever he steps on the court. Let‘s dive deeper into the game, impact and journey of this phenomenal talent.
High School and College Career
Hailing from Canton, Ohio, McCollum showed promise from a young age as a shifty, high-scoring guard. He steadily developed his skills through high school at GlenOak, where he averaged 21.3 points per game as a senior and earned Ohio‘s Mr. Basketball award.
However, McCollum was lightly recruited and chose to attend little-known Lehigh University. This is where he truly flourished, averaging 21.3 points per game and finishing as the Patriot League‘s all-time leading scorer. His nimble moves off the dribble and advanced scoring arsenal made him nearly impossible to contain at the college level.
Drafted by the Trail Blazers
Despite a dominant college career, McCollum was drafted just 10th overall in 2013 by the Portland Trail Blazers. However, this was an ideal landing spot for him to grow and he diligently worked his way into a starting role.
The 2015-2016 season marked McCollum‘s true breakout, where he averaged over 20 PPG and earned the NBA‘s Most Improved Player award. Seeing his scoring instincts translate so seamlessly to the pros was no surprise to longtime fans like myself.
Becoming a Star
McCollum has gone on to establish himself as a perennial 20+ PPG scorer and one of the league‘s most efficient guards. His lightning-quick release, deep range and ability to create space for his shot are unparalleled.
Moreover, CJ has stepped up tremendously in big playoff moments. His dominance against Denver in 2019 was awe-inspiring, vaulting the Blazers to the Conference Finals. Plays like his chase-down block in that series encapsulate how he lifts his play to another level when it matters most.
Playing Style and Strengths
As a 6‘3" guard lacking supreme athleticism, McCollum has crafted his game around finesse, footwork and flawless shooting ability. His repertoire of crossovers, spin moves and hesitation dribbles allows him to freeze defenders.
CJ simply needs a sliver of daylight to release his butter-smooth jumper, whether curling off a screen or pulling up off the bounce. His range extends far beyond the arc and his shot-making prowess opens up scoring opportunities for teammates as well.
While defense was once considered a weakness, McCollum has also markedly improved his defensive instincts and positioning over the years.
The Future and Legacy
Having just turned 31, CJ McCollum is right in the midst of his prime with his best basketball likely still ahead. His mastery of the fundamentals and high skill level position him well to remain effective into his mid-30s.
With his longevity, McCollum has a strong chance of retiring as one of the top guards in Blazers franchise history. It has been a joy watching him evolve from an unheralded draft pick into a lethal bucket-getter carrying Portland‘s offense. I can‘t wait to see what the coming years have in store for this talented athlete and true student of the game. Keep making us proud, CJ!