As great of a scorer as he is, CJ McCollum is not an impact player for the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard is set to make $250 million until 2025 and McCollum will make over $150 million
until 2024. It will be too difficult for new head coach Chauncey Billups and the Portland Trail Balzers to win with that much money tied up in two guards that are both ball-dominant scorers. Even if they are talented offensive players, they do not have the defensive capabilities to impact the game at the level of superstar duos across the league.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis bring size and defensive resistance, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton shut players down, and Kevin Durant with James Harden brings incredible size along with scoring ability. Unfortunately, Lillard and McCollum are both under 6’4” and have not been able to lead the franchise to much success in comparison to those other dominant duos. As a result, the Trail Blazers will continue to be at risk for not making the playoffs. Portland is sitting 10th in the West with a 13-18 record and will be lucky to even make the postseason at this point.
Franchise superstar Damian Lillard has sworn his loyalty to Portland, but it does not seem likely that he will see out his career with the franchise if the team continues its mediocrity. Trading McCollum might be the best way for Portland to make some immediate changes because keeping Lillard happy is absolutely the only way to have a future as a championship side. CJ McCollum is averaging 20.6 PPG in 24 games so far, which means the 30-year-old has plenty left in the tank to be an effective player for other teams.
We are still waiting on the official prognosis on CJ McCollum’s collapsed lung and the timetable for his return, but assuming he is healthy, the shooting guard will be on the trading block. Here are the 3 best destinations for CJ McCollum at this moment in time to give Portland some fresh blood within the team.
Trade Package: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Cam Reddish, 2022 First-Round Pick, 2023 Second-Round Pick
CJ McCollum tends to improve the Trail Blazers when he is on the floor, even if the team is not contending. His presence as an isolation scorer and an outside shooter is fringe All-Star level, and he hardly has off-games in terms of creating shots for himself and others. The shooting guard is nailing 39.3% of his threes, although his free-throw shooting is extremely low at 70.0%. The shooting guard has had his struggles on the floor this season, but when he is at his best, he is undeniably a great scorer.
Atlanta are a decent squad with a 14-15 record, but their chemistry is under question at the moment due to a lack of consistency on the court. The Hawks have great scoring options with Trae Young and John Collins, but McCollum will make their lineup very difficult to defend against. Atlanta can certainly add more instant offense in a league driven by scoring over defense, and McCollum might make the team one of the best scoring groups in the entire league. A starting five with Trae Young, CJ McCollum, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, and Clint Capela would be very entertaining to watch. Convincing Portland to trade McCollum will not be easy, but a pick and young studs like Bogdanovic and Redish could be enough.
For the Trail Blazers, Bogdanovic and Lillard make a better duo on the court than Dame and CJ. Bogdan can defend, hustle, and hit the open shot while Lillard carries the offense which he is capable of doing. Cam Redish also brings some a ton of potential and shooting, and the pick gives Portland flexibility in the coming drafts.
Trade Package: CJ McCollum, Anfernee Simons, 2023 First-Round Picks For Ben Simmons
Without a doubt, the trade destination that has been floating around with regards to CJ McCollum has been in Philadelphia. The 76ers have an incredibly talented roster when Simmons is on the floor, but the point guard’s impact alongside Joel Embiid has not been there. Rather, Simmons’ lack of jump shooting has rendered Embiid and the rest of the squad ineffective in crunch time. Ben Simmons is an All-Star and All-NBA talent, but he is not showing his best feathers with the 76ers. Based on this offseason’s hoopla, Simmons would be better off elsewhere.
It has been reported that Damian Lillard is interested in playing with Ben Simmons since the latter is a fantastic defender who can also create offense for others. Quite simply, Simmons fits better with Damian Lillard than CJ McCollum. It will not be cheap for Portland to acquire Simmons, because giving up McCollum, Simons, and picks will hurt at first. But Simmons and Lillard will form a great duo in Portland, especially as they start winning games en route to a playoff appearance.
For Philadelphia, CJ McCollum and Anfernee Simons bring outside shooting and scoring to a team that needs that alongside Joel Embiid. The big man is averaging 23.8 PPG and 11.0 RPG this season, solid numbers for one of the best centers in the game. Having CJ McCollum team up with Seth Curry and Tobias Harris on the perimeter means that the 76ers have a ton of offense on the court at once. The likes of Danny Green and Andre Drummond fortify the defense, so the 76ers should push for the Eastern Conference Finals with this deal.
New Orleans Pelicans
Trade Package: Josh Hart, Devonte' Graham, 2023 First-Round pick for CJ McCollum
The New Orleans Pelicans are a franchise in rebuild mode, especially with solid young stars in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram on the roster. New Orleans have not been playing very well, holding a 10-21 record which is last in the Western Conference. Zion is their best scorer (27.0 PPG last year) and Ingram is an All-Star forward, so both players are considered untouchables. But everyone else, including Josh Hart and Devonte’ Graham, could be immediately available.
Hart is having another strong year by averaging 11.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG, but he crowds the perimeter with Ingram and potentially McCollum there. Moving Hart will hurt, but they will get CJ McCollum to replace him and usurp the offensive capabilities of the current lineup. Even if the Pelicans are in the lottery right now, CJ McCollum makes them a much more formidable team to handle on the floor.
For Portland, Josh Hart immediately improves their defense and also gives Lillard a valuable partner who brings size, rebounding, and athleticism. Devonte’ Graham is having a solid season (13.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, 37.0% 3-PT FG) but he has not been able to make any sort of impact for a very poor Pelicans franchise. But if there is one thing that Graham can contribute on the floor, it is outside shooting and a scoring threat. Graham is not the player that CJ is, but he averages double-digits with ease and could make a solid package with Hart coming in. Overall, the Trail Blazers regroup with two solid players and a valuable first-round pick to get them into the playoffs.