The Portland Trail Blazers see a bright future in their crystal ball, believing that building the team around Damian Lillard, with C.J. McCollum joining him, puts them in the best position to compete for the next few years.
They gave Lillard a five year extension last season, as both he and the franchise showed belief that they can overcome the mass exodus of 2015, when four lineup players left in free agency. McCollum, mostly injured during his first two seasons up to that point, proved to be a perfect partner for Lillard in the backcourt, averaging 20.8 points per game in his first fully healthy season for the team, starting in 80 games and averaging 34.8 minutes a night. The added minutes didn’t hurt his efficiency, averaging more points per minute than before, and his shooting numbers also the best of his short career.
McCollum will play in 2016-2017 under his rookie contract, making $3.2 million. After that, depending on the exact numbers the NBA sets for max salaries, he’ll probably start out the four year extension with around $24 million on his new deal. He’ll be signed through the 2020-2021 season, just like Lillard, whose extension is worth $120 million over five seasons. The Blazers also signed Alan Crabbe to four years and $75 million, matching the offer sheet he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. They also signed Evan Turner from the Boston Celtics to a four-year, $70 million deal. This means they’ll begin the 2017-2018 season with around $86 million tied up to four backcourt-wing players.
McCollum, the 10th overall draft pick in 2013, is quite happy he now knows his future is in Portland. When asked about what he’s going to do with max money, he said he doesn’t know, but now that he’ll be in Portland for a long time, he can buy a house in Oregon. As for being a potential neighbour to Lillard, he said that it’s pretty much impossible: The way the Lillard estate is set up, there’s no possibility of being close to him. He sits alone on 10-11 acres and a driveway longer than a football field. I don’t think it’s possible to be that close to him.
Lillard and McCollum were already one of the more fun to watch backcourt duos in the NBA last season. The two are young, and have a better setup around them heading into the next season. Can they threaten the throne of Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson? Probably not, or at least not next season, but with the Blazers’ future surrounded by uncertainty 12 months ago, they’ve locked up their most important players for a long time, giving themselves a long enough window to build a team around them that puts them in a position to do some damage in the West, and maybe even contend for a championship with the right pieces in place.