For years, CJ McCollum has been one of the league’s best shooters.
As the 2021 NBA season began, one might argue he was the Trail Blazers best player.
McCollum was averaging a career-high 26.7 points and 5.0 assists per game while shooting a career-best 44.1% from 3-point range. He was also firing off a career-high 11 three-pointers per game in the Trail Blazers 6-4 start.
Simply put, he was playing like a bona fide All-Star.
When it felt like McCollum’s long overdue NBA All-Star selection was imminent, the Trail Blazers shooting guard suffered a fractured left foot. The injury would sideline McCollum for at least four weeks.
While it’s impossible to say whether McCollum’s early season returns would have sustained over the course of January, as Jusuf Nurkic also exited the Trail Blazers lineup with a fractured right wrist the previous game, one thing is for certain: CJ was making a strong argument that he was deserving of a spot in the esteemed All-Star backcourt.
As ESPN’s Kevin Pelton noted, McCollum had a real plus-minus of 7.36 on the court, higher than anyone in the NBA including LeBron James and Steph Curry. That number alone speaks volumes of the level of play McCollum is at in his eighth NBA season.
“McCollum is a surprising name to see near the top of the RPM leaderboard, but it’s really more of a case of McCollum performing at a level he has never reached before,” Pelton said.
McCollum has never made the All-Star squad because of how stacked the Western Conference is. The Trail Blazers star has always been competing against the likes of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and his own teammate, Damian Lillard, for a spot.
But the West changed this season. Westbrook moved to the Eastern Conference, Paul is averaging just 14.8 points per game in Phoenix, and Thompson is out for the year with an Achilles injury.
2021 is McCollum’s year, and he SHOULD be an All-Star. The numbers still speak loudly for themselves. But whether he is recognized for his brilliant play with an All-Star selection or not, it’s clear McCollum is motivated to get what’s his.
“I’m a killer. Figure out ways to eat," McCollum said after the Trail Blazers Jan. 11 win over the Raptors. "That’s what best describes me. Sharks just go hunt. Don’t worry about things. Never worry about how they get their next meal. Don’t worry about anything, that’s how I live my life."