Which Portland Trail Blazer Will See the Biggest Role Shift in 2014-15?

C.J. McCollum‘s NBA career didn’t get off to the start the Portland Trail Blazers were hoping for. A broken foot put a halt to his first season before it began, limiting the No. 10 pick to just 38 contests throughout his rookie campaign.

As a result, McCollum never fully got into the flow of the offense. By the time he returned, the team was already an impressive 26-9, making it difficult to throw him into an established rotation. 

In 2014-15, don’t expect the same narrative. In fact, as The Oregonian‘s Joe Freeman put it, “One thing has become clear to me this preseason regarding the second-year guard from Lehigh: He sure would make one heck of a sixth man.”

Giving McCollum sixth-man honors at this point may seem a bit premature, but it’s clear his role is about to increase. With health on his side and the “luxury” of being on an underachieving bench, the opportunity to succeed is far greater now than it was a year ago. 

So what can we expect from McCollum in his second season? Simply put: what we were hoping for in his first.

Entering the Association, McCollum drew natural comparisons to Damian Lillard. Like Lillard, the strengths revolved around scoring. The two thrived in college at putting the ball in the basket, and they both excelled from long range.

The concerns were also similar. Not only did both face criticism regarding their small-school backgrounds (more specifically: their inferior competition), but there was the question of whether they could become better distributors at the professional level.

At this juncture, it’s safe to say Lillard has proven doubters wrong despite needing to improve in a few key areas. McCollum, on the other hand, will use 2014-15 to begin doing just that.

Coming off a botched rookie year, half the battle is going to be mental. But that shouldn’t be a concern for the mature sophomore, who says he’s feeling “a lot more comfortable,” according to The Oregonian‘s Mike Richman

It comes from getting reps. It comes from having half a year under your belt and kind of getting more acquainted with the system, but I’m definitely getting more comfortable each night. I’m definitely confident because I’ve put so much time in, put so much work in and I feel like it’s going to all pay off.

The question here becomes: Where does McCollum fit into the rotation? If he’s going to earn sixth-man status, he’ll have to compete with a group of reserves all looking to improve.

On the current depth chart, courtesy of ESPN.com, McCollum is the third-string shooting guard behind Wesley Matthews and Will Barton. However, with Barton splitting time at the 2 and the 3 last year, the former Lehigh guard shouldn’t be concerned about getting run in the rotation.

Additionally, don’t count out the idea that McCollum will see minutes at the 1. Although Steve Blake will be a reliable shooter and playmaker, he’s the only floor general on the roster behind Lillard.

Blake, 34, has only played an average of 51 games the past three seasons. Assuming he requires rest at some point, McCollum will be right there to make up for the loss.

In fact, Blake himself has become a fan of the young guard’s game early in their time together. “He can do a little bit of everything,” Blake said in the Freeman story linked above. “He’s got a really nice shot from the outside, he’s athletic, he can get to the rim and finish and I think he’s starting to develop a nice passing game, which will help open him up some more.”

Without question, McCollum still has to prove his worth at the NBA level. Consistency on offense is going to be a theme to watch, as well as improvement on defense. However, the potential is there to be a big-time scorer on this prolific offense.

While we may not know exactly what the future holds for McCollum, we do know this: He’s about to get his first real opportunity to prove he’s capable of playing at a high level.

What he does with that opportunity is up to him, but it’s safe to say that 2014-15 will be his best shot so far at a true coming-out party.

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Portland Trail Blazers vs Los Angeles Clippers 10/24/14: Video Highlights, Recap

Two of the NBA‘s best, most exciting teams squared off on Friday night when the Portland Trail Blazers met the Los Angeles Clippers in a preseason clash. Led by Damian Lillard, the Blazers had one of the league’s best offenses last season. But the Chris Paul-led Clippers had the firepower to make this a very interesting matchup. 

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Lillard leads Trail Blazers past Clippers 99-89 (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 24: Will Barton #5 of the Portland Trail Blazers drives to the basket against Hedo Turkoglu #15 of the Los Angeles Clippers during the game on October 24, 2014 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Juan O'Campo /NBAE via Getty Images

Based on Friday, the Portland Trail Blazers would say yes; Damian Lillard scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half, and the bench held off a fourth-quarter rally as the Trail Blazers finished their exhibition schedule with a 99-89 victory Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers. Lillard scored seven points in Portland’s 17-4 first-period run to take a 25-16 lead with 3:08 left. He also scored his team’s final seven points for a 54-46 halftime lead for the Trail Blazers (4-3).

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Portland Trail Blazers season preview: Player projections

This is the third and final installment of our Portland Trail Blazers season preview. In the first two articles we took a look at the Blazers’ general roster and their potential standing in the Western Conference. Now I will give an overview of each player that will potentially be in the starting five and some key reserve players that will have a big affect off the bench.
The potential starters
Damian Lillard: While many players struggle during their second season, Lillard found a way to thrive. He averaged 20. 7 points and 5.6 assists per game last season. He hit the game winning shot to put the Blazers past the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs last year. Even if  Lillard’s numbers stayed the same this year, he would still be looking at having another great season. However I do expect Lillard’s 2.4 turnovers per game to decrease to 1-1.5 turnovers per game. If he is maintaining more procession and getting the ball to teammates more often, then scorers like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets 10/21/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Portland Trail Blazers looked to continue their strong preseason against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. The Blazers’ explosive offense faced a tough test from the deep Nuggets roster, who were capable of matching Portland’s potent attack.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Predicting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the 2014-15 Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers will look to build upon last year’s run to the second round of the postseason and compete deep into the Western Conference playoffs this season. Can Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge help the Blazers take the next step?

Jay Allen of Fox Sports Radio 620 joins Stephen Nelson to predict the good, the bad and the ugly for the upcoming season in Rip City in the video above.

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Maccabi Haifa vs. Portland Trail Blazers 10/17/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Portland Trail Blazers looked to score a big preseason win on Friday against Israeli side Maccabi Haifa.

Portland’s explosive offense has looked good all preseason, but the Blazers faced a tough test from the Israeli powerhouse.

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Matthews helps Trail Blazers beat Clippers 119-114 (Yahoo Sports)

PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 12: Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots against the Portland Trail Blazers on October 12, 2014 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Wesley Matthews scored 22 points, Portland was 17 of 25 from 3-point range and the Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Clippers 119-114 in an exhibition game Sunday night.

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Jazz’s Gordon Hayward Throws Down Huge Dunk in Preseason Game vs. Trail Blazers

There are a handful of NBA players you expect to throw down huge slam dunks during a game.

Utah Jazz wing Gordon Hayward is not one of them.

During Thursday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Hayward threw down this exciting dunk after driving to the rim, finishing with authority.


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Trail Blazers’ Chris Kaman Stars in Reality Web Series ‘Exploring Kaman’

Chris Kaman may be known as the man who lies down on his team’s bench during games, but the Portland Trail Blazers big man has a pretty active life outside of basketball.

The 32-year-old is starring in a reality web series called Exploring Kaman. The trailer for the web series shows that Kaman does some crazy things in his free time.

Exploring Kaman will premiere on Oct. 17.

[Exploring Kaman]

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