It would make for a ton of great stories if the Sixers selected C.J. McCollum with the 11th selection in this year’s NBA Draft. Though they declined to interview him at the Draft Combine, McCollum made it clear that he would love to play for the local franchise. “I’m a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers, so it will be interesting to see what happens.”
Unfortunately for the scouting department, a player being a fan of your team is not a prerequisite for NBA success. Questions surround McCollum’s scouting profile, from strength of competition to size, and they’re pretty valid. But the positives mentally and physically far outweigh his shortcomings.
For one, Lehigh University’s McCollum is a premier scorer, one of the best in the college game the past couple seasons. The Patriot League might not be the ACC or Big East, but averaging 20+ points per game on almost 50% shooting is an impressive accomplishment no matter who your competition is. As the primary (often only) option, McCollum maintained these numbers despite facing all different types of looks from opposing defenses, from zones to double teams.
Part of that can be attributed to his elite shooting ability. Before going down with a foot injury in January, McCollum was shooting a dazzling 51.6% from 3 for his senior season. That type of number would be hard to sustain long term, but it’s his ability to make different types of shots that makes him an appealing combo guard prospect. McCollum showed the ability to get his shots both off the dribble and curling off screens, versatility that will serve him well at the next level.
For a Sixers team that lacks shooting, as well as a backup ball-handler for Jrue Holiday, adding McCollum to the roster would give them a lot more options in the lineups they play. Initially he would probably be used as the spark off the bench last year’s outfit was missing, but his true value would surface when paired with Holiday in the backcourt. McCollum could run off screens and space the floor while Holiday runs the point, and serve as another reliable ball handler who can create for himself and his teammates.
He will likely struggle guarding the bigger SG position, but his stocky stature and 6’6″ wingspan will help compensate for his lack of height. Additionally, guard defense is often overrated, as their primary concern should be to prevent open shots on rotations and funnel drivers towards their helping big men. McCollum’s counter to size questions is his ability to swipe the rock. He was one of the leading thieves in the NCAA last year, averaging 2.6 steals per game, using quick hands and a non-stop motor to hound opposing ball-handlers.
Helping his case on and off the court, McCollum is well spoken and thoughtful, the type of guy you imagine would be a steadying force in the locker room. He returned for his senior season rather than declare for the Draft because, “I believe that finishing up my degree is an essential and pivotal step in the right direction for my future career.” This focus on his long-term goals rather than the immediate pay checks from the NBA suggests that McCollum is mentally equipped for the up and down grind of the league.
The obvious concern is whether or not McCollum will be available when the Sixers are on the clock. Pre-draft hysteria has his name buzzing around the league, many draft aficionados suggesting he will go somewhere in the 7-10 range. Sam Hinkie and Co. will have to play a waiting game to snag him, but McCollum should prove worth the wait if he gets there.