Trail Blazers

How CJ McCollum worked to improve his game ahead of career year with Blazers

Trail Blazers

During the 2020-21 NBA season, CJ McCollum has put together the best season of his NBA career.

In 32 games, McCollum is averaging a career-high 23.5 points and 4.8 assists per game. The former Lehigh product is shooting 39 percent from 3-point range and has been a key cog for the Blazers as Damian Lillard's righthand man.

McCollum spent the offseason making a concerted effort to improve his game by doing one thing. He looked to become a more efficient player.

As detailed by ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, McCollum's focus was on changing his shot profile. And the way to do that?

More 3s, less midrange.

CJ McCollum

That has become the modus operandi at the NBA level. The analytics revolution has revealed that midrange shots don't carry as much value as 3-point shots or shots closer to the basket. Midrange shots can still work -- and McCollum is good at shooting in the intermediate range -- but generally, it's more efficient to take 3s if you aren't driving towards the basket.

McCollum understands this, and that's why he decided to make the changes to his game, as he explained.

"I can still get to my 'middies,' but also try to get to the free throw line a little bit more," McCollum said. "But a big thing is to be more efficient around the rim. Shoot the middies when I have to, tighten up the floater, but really get high-value 3s up.

"Since I can shoot over 40 [percent], I should be shooting 10 threes a game. And if I can get four catches, shoot six off the dribble, I can hit it. So we just tried to break down my shot profile to make sure that I'm taking the most efficient approach possible while staying within my game."

 

That explains why McCollum has been more aggressive from behind the arc and has averaged a career-high 9.9 shots per game from beyond the arc. That has led to an increase in his scoring average while his 3-point percentage this year is the best that it's been since the 2017-18 season.

3J McCollum

McCollum's 3-point attempts per game (2020-21)
9.9
McCollum's 3-pointe attempts per game (pre '20-'21)
5.3

It seems that the changes to McCollum's game have worked, and if not for a foot fracture that sidelined him early during the season, he could be posting even bigger numbers. Even though he didn't qualify for the All-Star game, it has been an All-Star level campaign for McCollum.

As the season goes along, McCollum will need to continue to perform at a high level if the Blazers want to make some noise in the playoffs. They're mired in a bit of a slump right now, but if both McCollum and Lillard can shoot well from deep, the sky is the limit for this team.