November 13, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Lehigh Mountain Hawks guard C.J. McCollum (3) handles the ball against pressure by Pittsburgh Panthers guard James Robinson (right) during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Rookie Projections: C.J. McCollum

Team: Portland Trail Blazers

Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Role: Bench Player

Analysis: Many are already annointing Lehigh-product C.J. McCollum as this year’s “Damian Lillard”. Ironically, he is on the team that has a Lillard already, so what does that mean for McCollum?

Let’s face it, McCollum is a shooting guard stuck in a point guards body, right? If McCollum was, let’s say, 6 foot 5 he’d be a legit shooting guard. McCollum’s assist-to-turnover ration in college was 2.7/2.4…IN THE PATRIOT LEAGUE. It’s not exactly a strong suit for the rookie guard, but again, running a team isn’t exactly his true talent.

The good thing is that the Trail Blazers don’t need a point guard. They’re pretty set with Dame Lillard — the real one — so it’s safe to say that by the end of the season, McCollum could have that sixth man role locked up. A three-man rotation at guard between Lillard, Wesley Matthews and McCollum isn’t bad, not at all.

During Summer League, McCollum averaged 21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting 36 percent from the field and 31 percent from distance. The field goal percentages weren’t great, but in Summer League it’s not the most important thing. The key was that he was able to score, and score effectively. He belongs in the League. The real question is to what avail, though.

By season’s end, it’s safe to assume that McCollum will have a defined, meaningful role with the Trail Blazers. More than likely, something close to a sixth man — depending on how the team shapes up with injuries and/or trades. If Matthews gets traded, McCollum would probably step into that starting two spot. Not saying it would be the best idea, but it’s an idea nevertheless.

McCollum’s future is bright in the NBA. He could very well be the next “Damian Lillard” this upcoming season, even though his team already has the real one.

Statistical Projection: 28 MPG, 10.6 PPG,  36% 3PT

Tags: C.J. McCollum NBA NBA Offseason Portland Trail Blazers

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