It seems ever since the offseason has begun for the Boston Celtics, the pipedream of bringing Damian Lillard to Beantown has been readily on the minds of Celtics fans. Turns out, we may have had the right team, just the wrong player. Instead, The Athletic’s Jason Quick highlighted Lillard’s backcourt mate, CJ McCollum, as the Trail Blazers guard that the Celtics may ultimately have an eye for.
“For the first time, I believe the likelihood of McCollum being traded this summer is probable, if not certain,” Quick wrote. “I’ve also heard Boston could be interested in a player like McCollum, and I’ve always thought Marcus Smart and his defense would be a great pairing in Portland (obviously it would take more to make salaries match, but Smart would be a great start).”
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Chis Mannix on CJ McCollum in Boston: ‘He’d Be an Excellent Fit’
Add Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix to the list of those fond of a potential Celtics-McCollum pairing.
“I think CJ is the kind of player that would complement Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown well,” Mannix told NBC Sports Boston’s Early Edition. “He’s a lead guard. He’s offensive-oriented. He’s played alongside a volume scorer in Damian Lillard before, so this isn’t going to be new to him. I think a change of scenery would do CJ McCollum well. He’s also under contract for three more years. I think he’d be an excellent fit alongside these young guys.”
Of course, as is the case with nearly any big-name player potentially on the trade market, McCollum packs a hefty salary. As Mannix alluded to, the 29-year-old has three years remaining on his current contract. The deal increases in price every season, starting with $30.8 million next season, followed by $33.3 million in 2022-23 and $35.8 million in 2023-24.
McCollum was limited to just 47 games this season due to a broken foot. Still, he averaged 23.1 points and 4.7 assists per game, while shooting 40.2% from beyond the arc — the third-best mark of his eight-year career. The former NBA Most Improved Player has averaged at least 20.8 points per game in six consecutive seasons.
Mannix did note that he’s heard McCollum has been informed that “he’s not getting traded this offseason” — obviously contrasting Quick’s take on the matter. With that said, as Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey uttered following yet another first-round playoff exit, “Nothing is ever off the table if it advances us closer to a championship” (via The Athletic).
McCollum on Ime Udoka
To further fuel speculation of McCollum potentially finding his way to Boston, the Lehigh alumn took to his podcast, McCollum’s Pull Up, to shed praise on new Celtics head coach Ime Udoka.
“It was only a matter of time before he got this job in this position,” McCollum said. “I’m excited for Ime to get an opportunity to coach.”
Udoka, who served this season as an assistant on Steve Nash’s Brooklyn Nets staff, originally made a name for himself coaching under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio for seven seasons. Yet, like McCollum, Udoka has roots in Portland dating back to his playing days. The 43-year-old, who enjoyed a 12-year pro career spanning across stints both overseas and in the NBA, started 75 games for the Trail Blazers during the 2006-2007 season.
“I think he’s a great fit for the team,” McCollum added. “I think he’s learned over the course of his career and it’s great for him to get an opportunity.”