A Search For The Next Jeremy Lin Part 3: C.J. McCollum

In this series of posts, I am highlighting college players who have posted fantastic numbers, but have been mostly overlooked by NBA teams for one reason or another. I am not necessarily suggesting that any of these players should be lottery picks, but merely that they have proven they deserve a shot to play on the big stage. So far, I’ve argued for Liberty’s stat-stuffing point guard Jesse Sanders and Missouri’s king of efficiency, Marcus Denmon. This time, I’m focusing on a scoring machine in a small package.

I want to note that I began writing this article prior to the Duke game, but decided to change its direction a little in light of the game.

Move Over, Monta Austin

C.J. McCollum is the sixth most prolific scorer in the NCAA, averaging 26.57 points per 40 minutes. Yet, because he is playing at Lehigh University, he is a relative unknonwn. Or at least he was until his 15th seed Mountain Hawks upset the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Now he’s the talk of the town. Even Mike Krzyzewski said McCollum was the best player on the court, which would make him better than *gasp* Austin Rivers. But how can this be?! Austin Rivers is a projected lottery pick and McCollum, at least before he showcased his skills in front of the country, was … not a draft pick at all. Surely Krzyzewski only meant that particular game; he wasn’t making a general statement. Let’s compare McCollum and America’s favorite fortunate son, Rivers.

Player Avg SG SGs in DE Top 100 Austin Rivers C.J. McCollum
eFG% 0.486 0.534 0.508 0.510
TS% 0.526 0.575 0.596 0.626
3P% 0.349 0.382 0.368 0.356
FT% 0.727 0.740 0.655 0.821
OReb40 1.03 1.27 0.66 1.69
DReb40 3.21 4.24 3.40 6.22
Reb40 4.23 5.51 4.05 7.91
Ast40 2.77 2.95 2.56 4.31
Stl40 1.42 1.56 1.21 3.20
Blk40 0.23 0.46 0.04 0.66
TO40 2.49 2.71 2.81 2.69
PF40 3.00 2.45 2.63 2.47
Points!40 13.53 19.75 18.56 26.57
WS40 2.02 4.84 1.94 9.56

Don’t adjust your computer screen. You’re reading that right. C.J. McCollum is better than Austin Rivers at everything. Well, almost everything. Rivers is a slightly better three-point shooter, which seems to be his only redeeming skill. Shockingly, Rivers is less productive than the average NCAA shooting guard. That’s right, pick a random shooting guard on a random team, and more likely than not he’s more productive than Austin Rivers. This is because, while Rivers is pretty decent at getting the ball in the bucket, he’s bad at just about everything else. And it’s even more alarming when we compare him to the rest of the shooting guard draft class – he shoots worse and scores less. Talk about a landmine.

But enough about Rivers, let’s talk about McCollum. The numbers suggest he’s a solid player just about everywhere, especially with respect to rebounding, passing, and forcing turnovers. He gets over twice as many steals per 40 minutes as the average shooting guard in the draft class, while managing to turn the ball over less.

The one concern I have about McCollum is his shooting efficiency. While 50% is much better than the average college shooting guard, it is actually quite a bit worse than the 53% posted by the average shooting guard in Draft Express’s Top 100. This is alarming only because of how much C.J. likes to shoot. After all, we don’t want him turning into the next Monta Ellis, even though I’m sure most NBA teams would be ecstatic if he did. But I’m not sure he will become an Ellis/Iverson type for a big reason: McCollum seems to be a more well-rounded player. Most importantly, he doesn’t struggle with turnovers. I realize it may be different at the NBA level, but Iverson, for example, averaged 4.58 turnovers per 40 minutes during his final year at Georgetown. Iverson probably ran the point a lot more in college than McCollum, but even the average college point guard averages only 3.22 turnovers per 40 minutes. And McCollum certainly played more than a few possessions at the point. In addition, McCollum is a great rebounder. His 7.91 rebounds per 40 minutes is almost as many as the average college power forward! Guys like Ellis and Iverson have never been particularly good at grabbing boards. But while his versatility can help make him productive despite his relatively poor shooting, McCollum needs to work on his shot selection if he wants to be a good NBA player.

The concern posed by scouts and draft experts is size. I’ve said before I don’t buy size arguments, especially when the guy is 6-3. Austin Rivers is only an inch taller. McCollum could probably succeed at either guard position, although it might take some developing to get him to play point guard.

Because C.J. McCollum is so well rounded, NBA teams should give him a serious look. Of course, we know that a player’s team performance in the NCAA tournament can affect his draft status dramatically. So McCollum has probably already boosted his draft stock and with luck some team will give him a chance. At the very least, if a team is considering drafting Austin Rivers, it should save itself some trouble and draft McCollum instead.

-James

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