Better Know a Prospect: C.J. McCollum, G - Lehigh

Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Bio: C.J McCollum was born in 1991 in Ohio. Raised in Canton, he comes from a basketball family; his older brother, Errick McCollum III, currently plays professional basketball in Israel.

McCollum stood 5'2" as a high school freshman, a fact speculated to have dampened recruiting interest from major schools. Over four years of high school, McCollum grew more than a foot -- he was listed at 6'3" as an incoming college freshman in 2009 -- but was recruited primarily by mid-majors. McCollum settled on Lehigh University, where he racked up Conference Player of the Year honors, a feat he'd repeat as a junior in 2012.

His junior season was particularly impressive. McCollum led Lehigh to a 15th seed in the NCAA Tournament, where he then proceeded to knock off #2 seed Duke in the first round, absolutely decimating NBA prospect Austin Rivers in the process. It was the fourth #15-#2 upset in the last 108 such matchups; after the game, Mike Krzyzewski noted, "[Lehigh] had the best player on the court tonight in McCollum... he's really one of the outstanding players in the country."

McCollum opted to return for his senior season which was unfortunately cut short by a broken left foot in January. He wouldn't return to the court though he did graduate with a degree in journalism last month.

Stats: His overall scoring numbers rival Damian Lillard's from a year ago -- a 32.3 PER as a junior (35.2 in 12 games as a senior) coupled with 1.15 points/poss and 1.20 points/poss on 28% and 30% usage respectively. In a nutshell, he can score the ball rather effectively.

McCollum was decent from behind the arc at 34% his junior season and good from the free throw line as well (81%), useful given his ability to draw contact in the paint (0.37 FTA/FGA). He didn't turn over too often (0.13 turnover rate), but the statistics certainly raise many questions abut his ability to assist and find teammates -- a very low 0.14 assist rate and a very high 0.21 turnover rate in pick and roll situations.

The stats paint a picture of an effective scoring guard, but one that may well have trouble adapting to a more conventional point guard role.

Skills: McCollum's certainly a shoot first guard; in pick and roll situations he very often goes to his own shot first, and while he's not on Anthony Bennett's level, he has a tendency to put up perimeter shots early in the clock. Some of this reduces to the same challenge we experienced in analyzing Damian Lillard a year ago -- was this justifiable due to a dearth of elite teammates? I tend to defend McCollum less here than I did Lillard because McCollum very clearly missed open teammates and shooters far more frequently than Lillard did; his vision is suspect.

He certainly showed enough catch-and-shoot ability to elicit serious condition as an off guard option in two guard sets. McCollum can put the ball on the floor, and also has a killer hesitation/crossover dribble (although we've seen first hand with Austin Rivers how little that can be worth when other, more fundamental skills aren't in place).

Defensively, he has both size and strength but struggled with quickness and lateral movement. He was a strong rebounder for his position though, and the fact that he can likely be matched up with shooting guards on occasion somewhat mitigates this.

Overall: McCollum as a point guard strikes me as something of a luxury selection. His skill set would be a great addition to a playoff team that already has its primary point guard in place, but given his ostensible inability to effectively create for others, I'm less convinced that he can step in right away to be a main lead guard. His ability as a scorer is undeniable though, and it'll be fun to watch how his absolutely sterling scoring record translates to the NBA next year.

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