Now What?: The future of the Blazers backcourt
The Blazers boast one of the best backcourts in the entire NBA with the combo of All-Star point guard Damian Lillard and shooting guard CJ McCollum.
The two had their way with opposing defenses all season long. They combined so score 3,694 points on the season, drained a total of 416 threes, and both of them had 50-point games. Needless to say, they’re pretty good.
However, in the playoffs the New Orleans Pelicans were able to hold the two down. This led fans to wonder if it is time to break up the dynamic duo.
So what does the future hold for the CJ and Dame duo- Will they part ways, or will they continue to be the core duo the Blazers build around?
Breaking down the dollars
Lillard and McCollum are the two highest paid players on the Trail Blazers roster, and in 2017-’18 they were the 13th and 19th highest paid players in the league respectively.
Lillard signed a five-year, $120 million contract extension with the Blazers in 2015.
He was paid $26,153,057 this past season and has three years remaining on the deal. Lillard will make $27,977,689 in the 2018-’19 season.
McCollum is also enjoying the pay bump that came with his contract extension, having signed a four-year, $106 million extension in 2016. This past season was the first year of the new deal, which netted McCollum $23,962,572. Next season that salary jumps to $25,759,766.
So, for those keeping track at home, the Blazers backcourt is on the books for a combined $50,115,630 next season.
Lillard anchors impressive season
Damian Lillard did what Damian Lillard does best in 2017-’18 – He filled up the stat sheet. He averaged 26.5 points, 6.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.0 steal per game. He also hit a career best 91.6% from the charity stripe.
He also eclipsed the 40-point mark four times this season, including a season-high 50 points against the Sacramento King on February 9.
His 26.5 points per game average was the fourth best in the league, and he was one of just five players to average greater than 25 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists per game this season - The other four being Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook. That’s pretty good company.
Lillard is in the prime of his career and the numbers show it. The fun part will be to see if he can improve on these numbers and be even better next season.
CJ McCollum: Portland's 1-B
McCollum had another solid year in 2017-‘18, his third as the starting shooting guard for the Blazers. He averaged 21.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game, and scored a career-high 50 points against the Bulls on January 31.
However, this season could be considered a step back. He saw his points per game, field goal percentage, three point percentage, two point percentage, and free throw percentage all drop. One could argue it was just an off shooting year for McCollum. An anomaly. When his shooting numbers come back up, expect his per game averages to rise with them.
At 26-years-old, McCollum is just now entering his prime. Much like Lillard, it is going to be very entertaining to see what the man known as “3J” brings to the court next season.