A bonafide shooting guard is coming to the Crescent City and will very soon give the backcourt a necessary and sizable offensive boost.
As a bonus, the depth of the frontcourt may also be getting upgraded.
The New Orleans Pelicans and the Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to terms on a trade, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. If the deal gets completed as it stands, the Pelicans would receive CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell, with Tomas Satoransky, Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada and future draft compensation heading to Portland.
Full trade, per sources:— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 8, 2022
Blazers: Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Walker-Alexander, Didi Louzada, 2022 protected first-round pick, two second-round picks.
Pelicans: CJ McCollum, Larry Nance, Tony Snell.
New Orleans' 2022 first-round pick:— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) February 8, 2022
1-4: Goes to the Pelicans
5-14: Goes to the Blazers
15-30: Goes to the Hornets
- Blazers get a future first-round pick if it doesn't convey
- Hornets get future second-round picks if it doesn't convey
McCollum has two more seasons left on his current deal after signing an extension in 2019.
McCollum is in the first year of a three-year $100M extension that he signed in 2019.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 8, 2022
He has $10.5M left on his contract this season (a total of $80M). https://t.co/kgqnd9GZWm
David Griffin had shown interest in McCollum previously, asking for CJ and three first-round picks for Jrue Holiday during the 2020 offseason, but then-GM Neil Olshey declined.
McCollum, who was drafted by Portland with the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, was in the midst of his ninth season with the Trail Blazers. The 2016 Most Improved Player has eclipsed 20 points per game for six consecutive campaigns and is on track to make it seven.
While this season has been a little more trying than most, McCollum is averaging 20.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.1 threes. The 4-year college player out of Lehigh University missed 18 games due to right lung pneumothorax (a collapsed lung).
Most Jump Shots Made, Last 5+ Seasons— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) February 8, 2022
1. CJ McCollum ... 2,155 (54.4 eFG%)
2. Steph Curry .... 2,123 (60.0)
3. Paul George .... 2,095 (52.3)
4. Chris Paul ...... 2,053 (54.6)
5. Bradley Beal ... 2,052 (50.7)
Since 2016-17 Season pic.twitter.com/khTQpB6ph3
The 30-year-old has never been named to an NBA All-Star game, but McCollum is regarded as one of the best and most consistent shooters in the league. He owns a 39.6 career three-point shooting percentage on strong volume — the biggest reason why this front office agreed to this trade.
The Pelicans have been woeful from behind the arc, ranking in the bottom five of the NBA in 3-point percentage and 3-point makes. In posting a 5-10 won-loss record in January, the team finished dead last across the Association with a 29.8 3PT%.
The addition of McCollum should also help New Orleans’ low efficiency rates in comparison to the rest of the league in pick-and-rolls (27th), spot-up shooting (23rd) and isolation situations (30th). McCollum has usually excelled in all of those areas within the offense over the course of his career.
Another thing to keep in mind, McCollum is proven to be able to carry a team when another star sits. He has averages of 25.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 49 career games without Damian Lillard.
With the Pelicans in prime position to get into the Play-In tournament, McCollum boasts plenty of useful experience. In 57 playoff games, he is averaging 20.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, while shooting 43.9% from the field and 38.4% from 3-point range. He’s built up a reputation of being particular deadly in elimination games.
I’ve got this odd suspicion that CJ McCollum is bounce back with one of his greater games tonight in Game 6. No real explanation why; w/ some players it just never feels smart counting them out.— Marlow Ferguson Jr. (@meloferg) June 3, 2021
Take a look at his rèsumè in elimination matchups w/ the Blazers. Big-time stuff. pic.twitter.com/URZ0mDnBD0
With the arrival of CJ McCollum, there’s a strong chance that Devonte’ Graham gets shifted to the bench. He was a reserve in 64 of 164 games in Charlotte. Starting two smaller guards with clear defensive limitations is worrisome, but another couple of factors in that equation may include the recent play of Jaxson Hayes and the acquisition of Nance Jr.
The third-year big man is averaging 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks over the last four games, spending most of his time at power forward. Willie Green opting for a starting lineup of McCollum-Brandon Ingram-Herb Jones-Jaxson Hayes-Jonas Valanciunas makes sense, at least until Zion Williamson returns.
However, don’t dismiss Larry Nance Jr., who has started 134 games in his career. The 29-year-old, who has career averages of 8.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals and can hit the open outside shot usually well enough, has long been a target of The Bird Writes.
There is a chance that Nance may not ultimately wind up in New Orleans though.
My understanding is this deal is not yet done. There is a possibility a third team could get looped in prior to Thursday's trade deadline. Either way, McCollum is New Orleans-bound. https://t.co/ZRgYjmMtFL— Christian Clark (@cclark_13) February 8, 2022
Either way, landing players of Nance and McCollum’s caliber, of course, meant that the Pelicans had to send good value in return to Portland.
While losing Nickeil Alexander-Walker (12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists) is going to sting some — he’s only in his third season and if his decision-making and outside jumper ever catch up to the rest of his bag, look out — Josh Hart is going to be dearly missed in New Orleans.
I took an extensive look at Hart’s underrated contributions on Monday, detailing what’s been an incredible fifth NBA season for the versatile wingman.
Hart is averaging career-highs in points (13.4), assists (4.1), steals (1.1) and field goal percentage (50.5%). He’s also getting to the free throw line at his best clip (3.8 FTA) and has more than doubled the amount of times he drives from the perimeter in games than in previous seasons.
All the while, Hart remains one of the best rebounders for his size, provides excellent defensive versatility and reminds viewers of Marvel’s Human Torch when in transition.
“Josh is a basketball player,” Willie Green said after the Pelicans’ 101-96 victory over the Warriors in January. “You put him on the floor, he gets things done. That’s game after game. The thing I love about Josh is that he just competes at a high level. No matter what the time, score, situation it is, he goes and lays it out on the line.”
New Orleans loses two rotation players, including a member of a very good starting lineup, for — what at the time of this writing — appears to be a borderline All-Star and a solid rotation player. However, they are forced to part with a protected 2022 first-round pick and a couple of future second-round picks.
Considering the weak play at guard and a real inability to force opponents to guard the 3-point line, CJ McCollum should be a breath of fresh air for a team that loves to attack the lane. This should prove especially true once Zion returns, but until he does, Larry Nance Jr. soaking up minutes in the frontcourt could prove a positive as well.
For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.