with news announced this afternoon that Blazers rookie guard CJ McCollum has been assigned to the Idaho Stampede as he recovers from a foot injury, it appears his eventual debut for Portland is soon approaching. Many have been curious about how Terry Stotts might expand his rotation and how that will affect Mo Williams. The answer lies not with McCollum’s abilities, but with Williams’ strengths in play.
Williams has had Portland fans in the throes of panic often this year, and it’s not hard to understand why. He is shooting an abysmal .398 eFG% in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock according to 82games.com. That number would be bearable if it didn’t also account for 38 percent of his total shot attempts.
That being said, it’s not as though Williams has played entirely terrible as Portland’s sixth man. Playing in the two-guard lineup while Lillard is still in the game has been effective offensively.
Issues seem to arrive particularly with Williams handling the ball and Dorell Wright at the two guard. With the injection of McCollum to the lineup, we could see the Blazers move Wright’s minutes at the shooting guard spot to Williams. During the 2011-2012 lockout season, Williams filled this role nicely for the Los Angeles Clippers.
That year, Williams posted his third best three-point percentage of his career (.389). He posted similar PPP ratings and three-point percentages as he is this year in Portland on spot up jumpers and in off screen plays. Both are staples of the Blazers HORNS offense sets:
|Spot Up PPP/3P%||Off Screen PPP/FG%|
With McCollum at the point position, it would give Lillard a rest while Williams could continue to be the shooter he’s meant to be.
Many have stated concerns that McCollum can’t occupy the same court space as Williams since both are ball-dominating guards. That sort of overlooks the fact that Lillard, a ball-dominating guard, allows Williams success on offense when they’re on the court together. It doesn’t seem like much of a concern to me.
His time at Lehigh would indicate that McCollum is indeed a willing passer. During his last two seasons in college he assisted on a quarter of his teammates buckets, an effective if mildly unimpressive number.
The real question won’t be how McCollum fits, but if he will be placed into meaningful minutes. Coach Terry Stotts subscribes to his rotation and, for the most part, doesn’t stray too far from it. With another healthy guard, it may allow him to get Lillard some additional rest and keep Wright from the shooting guard spot where he seems to struggle.
McCollum has been practicing with the team for some time, and I expect to see him during the three game homestand in Portland that starts on January 8. The Trail Blazers play Orlando, Boston and Cleveland before heading out on a Texas road trip.
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