A closer look at Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum
PORTLAND, Ore. — This wasn’t a good season for the Blazers. The team didn’t live up to expectations and the majority of the players on the team came up short in that department as well.
The Blazers, however, finished the regular season with 41 wins, the picture of mediocrity. The team played much better after the All-Star break with an 18-8 record, fourth-best in the NBA. The Blazers were especially lifted by their performance in March, when Portland won 13 of 16 games. But even though the Blazers finished the regular season strong and made the playoffs, the season was a disappointment overall.
Some of the grades for the Blazers for this season won’t be pretty. They reflect the reality of what happened all season, not just in March.
The good news is the book has closed on the 2016-17 season. The players can work this summer to improve their games. The front office can make smart moves to improve the roster. Everyone gets a fresh slate, a blank report card, when training camp begins next October.
GRAPHIC INSTRUCTIONS: Take a stroll around the court and check out the player cards for the nine rotation members of the 2016-17 Portland Trail Blazers. Click on each card to open a larger version. Click on the card again to flip it over and see the back. To close the card you’re looking at, click it one more time. Mobile users, rotate your phone to see the full graphic.
- Starting shooting guard
- Player impact estimate score: 12.5
- Grade: B-
McCollum burst onto the scene last season, winning Most Improved Player and establishing himself as the second-most important player on the Blazers’ roster. His performance this season should have put him in the running for Most Improved Player again.
Take a look at all the areas McCollum improved this season. He increased his scoring (20.8 to 23.0), rebounding (3.2 to 3.6), turnovers (2.5 to 2.2) and all his shooting percentages (.448 to .480 on field goals; .417 to .421 on 3-pointers; and .827 to .912 at the free-throw line).
The one area McCollum notably regressed was in assists, dropping from 4.3 per game in 2015-16 to 3.6 this past season. His assist rate fell from 21.1 last season to 17.2 this year. That’s an issue and we’ll circle back to it later.
But overall, McCollum improved his offensive game and established himself as one of the best scorers and arguably the best shooter in the NBA. You couldn’t ask for more from your shooting guard on offense.
When McCollum was on the court, the Blazers allowed 108 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark of his career. Once Jusuf Nurkic arrived, though, McCollum’s defensive rating improved significantly. In March, McCollum's defensive rating dropped to about 103.
There is reason to believe McCollum’s defense will look better next season if Nurkic is healthy and plays the majority of games.
MCCOLLUM’S DEFENSIVE RATING
In isolation defense last season, McCollum was a middle-of-the-pack defender. He allowed 0.87 points per possession in isolation plays, which ranks in the 58th percentile of the league. He was the Blazers' fifth-best defender among its nine rotation players.
Another area for McCollum to improve is passing the ball. It’s not that McCollum lacks the ability to pass the ball. He’s a skilled passer. The problem is he doesn’t pass it enough. McCollum shooting the ball is almost never a bad idea, with as efficient as he is. But McCollum is also good at breaking down defenders and drawing extra attention on offense. When that happens, he needs to be better at finding open teammates for easy scores.
Blazers report cards
Note: Report cards weren’t made for Ed Davis, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier or Tim Quarterman, because they played too few games and minutes for an accurate assessment of their value.
How we determined each player's grade
These grades reflect where each player fits within the hierarchy of the league, as judged by statistical data. The NBA statistic “Player Impact Estimate” (PIE) was the data point used to calculate each grade.
According to NBA.com, PIE “measures a player’s overall statistical contribution” while they’re on the court. It is a comparable stat to Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
The formula to compute the statistic incorporates points, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, personal fouls and turnovers.
For context, Russell Westbrook had the highest PIE in the NBA with a score of 23, followed by Anthony Davis with a score of 19.2. An average player in the NBA, according to the PIE statistic, had a score between 10 and 11 and included players like Otto Porter Jr. and Marcin Gortat.
19 PIE and up — A+
17.7-18.9 — A
16.4-17.6 — A-
15.1-16.3 — B+
13.8-15.0 — B
12.5-13.7 — B-
11.2-12.4 — C+
9.9-11.1 — C
8.6-9.8 — C-
7.3-8.5 — D+
6-7.2 — D
4.7-5.9 — D-
3.4-4.6 — F+
2.1-3.3 — F
0-2.0 — F-
Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. Follow him on Twitter here.