Candace Buckner: McCollum clearly best choice for Blazers

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
photoCandace Buckner

As the Portland Trail Blazers hope to rebuild a broken roster through the NBA Draft tonight, their first choice should be simple.

Pick C.J. McCollum.

If the clock has expired on the previous nine teams and Commissioner David Stern has yet to call McCollum's name, then there is no need for the Blazers to waste their five minutes.

With the 10th pick, take McCollum. He's the answer in a draft dominated by unproven underclassmen and enigmatic entries. While no clear star stands out, McCollum should emerge from this class as a legitimate professional.

McCollum, a 6-foot-3 scoring point guard, may come from a school so far off the radar that the official NBA draft bios list his Lehigh as affiliated with "Small Conferences." Also, it's true that the Blazers already have a decent point guard in that Damian Lillard guy. Still, Portland could be just the place for McCollum.

Blazers general manager Neil Olshey has said that he will draft the best available player remaining, and not simply for need. But how about picking a player who can fulfill both categories?

Select McCollum, because he's an insanely gifted scorer, the best on the board. McCollum averaged 23.9 points a game during his senior year and was on track to realizing his pre-season goals of shooting 50 percent from the floor and the 3-point arc as well as 90 percent from the free-throw line until a broken foot in January ended his college career.

McCollum toyed with the Patriot League, becoming the all-time leading scorer in the conference. Yes, McCollum played in a league that would be considered as a mid-major at best. The small-school fairytale doesn't always translate to the NBA. For every Stephen Curry, there are two Jimmer Fredettes.

Even so, McCollum's numbers should relax any 'buyer beware' concerns. His jumper is pro ready -- McCollum ranked first in the NCAA with the highest scoring efficiency numbers -- his poise is unparalleled and his maturity unmatched.

Choose McCollum, because the Blazers could use more help in the backcourt, a recurring need from last season.

Through the stretches when shooting guard Wesley Matthews needed to rest his banged-up body, coach Terry Stotts grew so desperate for a two-guard replacement that he inserted 6-10 rookie Victor Claver into the starting lineup. So, imagine having a versatile guard who not only can play alongside Lillard but also can back him up and anchor the wayward second unit. No longer will the Blazers worry about who will emerge from the bench and perform the impossible by actually scoring a bucket — McCollum can be that sixth man, that instant offense.

"Honestly, I feel like I can play either position — the one or the two (guard)," McCollum told reporters after his workout with the Blazers. "Out here, obviously there's a pretty good one in place so I'd have to be a chameleon and kind of adjust. I think that's one of the things I'm good at. I can play off other guys and knock down shots and at the same time, I can help Damian by backing him up and doing everything that's necessary for the team."

So, take this advice, Blazers.

Prefer McCollum, because he fits in with your plans for taking a greater leap in 2013-2014 without pulling the team back to Step 1 as another undeveloped rookie.

Demand McCollum, because his strengths far outweigh his weaknesses (size and power) and it should mean something that your Rookie of the Year award winner spoke his name when choosing a potential teammate from the list of draft prospects.

Save McCollum, because the kid majored in journalism and, God forbid, he might actually have to use his degree if this basketball thing doesn't work out.

The right choice is the easy one. Pick C.J. McCollum.

Candace Buckner covers the Trail Blazers for The Columbian. She can be reached at 360-735-4528 or email at candace.buckner@columbian.com. Her Twitter handle is @blazerbanter