Damian Lillard | Portland Trail Blazers: 4th season, 2x All-Star, 2013 Rookie of the Year, NBA All-Rookie First Team, 1x All-NBA Team
Damian Lillard’s rise to elite status is a bit of a surprise. NBA scouts had their doubts about the four-year Weber State point guard. He wasn’t the greatest at driving to the hoop, and the level of competition he saw in college were two knacks against Lillard. But his physical attributes, talent to score in bunches and ability to knock down the 3-point shot put him as one of the top, if not the most promising, point guard in his class. It was just a matter of someone giving him a chance. The Trail Blazers took that roll of a dice on a small school kid. Four years later it’s clear that was the right lottery choice at No. 6. Hell, it was clear from his first season Lillard would be in store for a remarkable career.
Much like his four-year stint in college when he boosted his 11.5 points-per-game clip as a freshman to 24.5 as a senior, Lillard is making leaps and strides during each NBA season. He took the League by storm by averaging 19 points and 6.5 assists in his first year. And he’s started since Day 1, proving how much of an NBA-ready prospect he was. Now his totals have ballooned to 24 and 7. In an era where point guards are able to score and dish out dimes equally as effective, Lillard has also shown he’s one of the best combo-guards today. The field goal percentage could be a tad higher, but when he’s on a Portland team surrounded by little talent other than backcourt mate C.J. McCollum, he’s forced to take on more shots than he would have last season (an increase from 16.6 to 19.6 shots). The Blazers are a lower-seeded playoff team should they qualify in 2016, but they’ve found their puzzle piece to build around for years to come.
C.J. McCollum | Portland Trail Blazers: 3rd season
Watching C.J. McCollum play these days is much different than what he’s been doing the past two seasons. His scoring average has jumped from 7 ppg. to 21 ppg. in the past year, and now he’s becoming an easy favorite to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Now that he’s healthy has a bit to do with it, but his maturity on the court also plays a part.
McCollum has earned the starting job in Portland through his true work ethic and playmaking skills on the floor. His confidence is at an all-time high and it’s a beauty to watch him light up defenses with his scoring. Now in his third year, McCollum is patiently picking his spots to attack on offense while also being a solid defender on the other side of the court for the Blazers. Shooting 44% from the field so far this season, McCollum is also making a case at being one of the game’s top mid-range scorers. In the past couple of months, his court chemistry alongside Damian Lillard has grown drastically and the two could be a dangerous set to deal with for years if McCollum stays in Portland.