Portland Trail Blazers send CJ McCollum to New Orleans Pelicans as part of trade

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The New Orleans Pelicans have acquired guard CJ McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers, the teams announced Tuesday.

The Pelicans are sending out guards Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Didi Louzada in the deal. New Orleans is also sending a protected first-round pick and two second-round picks to Portland. The first-round pick is No. 5 to 14 protected for 2022, and if it doesn’t convey this year, the first-rounder kicks to the future for the Trail Blazers.

Portland is also sending forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell to New Orleans.

The trade breaks up Portland’s backcourt duo of McCollum and All-NBA guard Damian Lillard and ends an era for the franchise. The Blazers have made the playoffs every season since the team drafted McCollum in 2013, a year after selecting Lillard.

“We talked about it over the years, like, this being a possibility,” Lillard, speaking to NBA.com, said of the trade. “We both knew that this point would be coming. But that don’t make it no easier to deal with. I think that’s where I am now. Me and him literally talked about it happening, the possibility of it and it was likely and stuff like that, and I still woke up this morning like, sad. It’s actually done. When I’m seeing ‘CJ To The Pelicans’ and stuff like that, it’s like damn, ain’t no coming back from this, this is it.

“It ain’t gonna be no every day, pull up to the house, dinner on the road, all that stuff. It’s done, he’s on a new team. As much as I understood it and he understood it and we kind of have always communicated in a transparent way, it don’t make it any easier to deal with or to look at. Like man, is it really over? Is the run really over?”

Despite the regular-season success, postseason glory has eluded Portland. The team advanced to the conference finals only once and suffered five first-round exits.

“I think we’ll be remembered as trouble,” Lillard said of his backcourt mate to NBA.com. “We never won a championship together, we never played in the Finals together, but we have always been a winning team. Us together, we’ve always been a winning team, we’ve always been a playoff team, so we never had empty success in games. We’ve always won games … we just didn’t win at the highest level.

“No matter if it was the best team in the league, worst team in the league, they knew that they had trouble. And in the playoffs — people can say what they want — we’ve had our down moments in the playoffs and we’ve had high moments in the playoffs, I would say about split. Regardless of that, we were always the team that people would prefer not to play in the playoffs, regardless of any of that, because they knew they had trouble. That’s how I think we’ll be remember is like man, when CJ and Dame was together for that eight, nine years, trouble. I think that’s how we’ll be remembered.”

McCollum, who is averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds this season, gives the Pelicans a reliable backcourt option who can hit from long range.

Ever since he broke out as a starter during the 2015-16 season, McCollum has been one of the top marksmen in the NBA. He has hit at least 165 3-pointers in the past six seasons and is averaging 3.2 makes from deep this season on 38.4%. McCollum ranks seventh in 3-pointers made across the league since that 2015-16 campaign.

The Pelicans have struggled with their accuracy from deep this season, shooting just 32.9% as a team, which ranks 26th in the league, and are 29th in 3-pointers made. McCollum has shot at least 37.5% from deep in every season of his career, with three seasons over 40%.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, McCollum is one of just five players to average at least 20 points per game in each of the past seven seasons (minimum 30 games played each year) joining LeBron James, Anthony Davis, James Harden and DeMar DeRozan.

In the past five seasons, according to Second Spectrum data, McCollum has made 1,083 off-the-dribble jumpers, which is the fourth most in the league over that span. This season, the Pelicans rank 29th in the league in off-the-dribble made jumpers and last in off-the-dribble jump shot field goal percentage.

McCollum, who is 30, signed a three-year, $100 million extension in the summer of 2019 that took effect this season. He is set to be paid $33.3 million in 2022-23 and $35.8 million in 2023-24.

McCollum’s presence on the floor will help a New Orleans squad that moved into the 10th spot in the Western Conference standings with its win over Houston on Sunday night. It’s the first time all season the Pelicans have had sole possession of a top-10 spot in the standings after the team started the season 3-16.

While the Pelicans await the return of Zion Williamson, McCollum can pair with forward Brandon Ingram to give the Pelicans a stronger one-two offensive punch on the perimeter. The Pelicans are 19-20 in games that Ingram has played in this season but are just 2-12 in games he has missed.

For Portland, it allows the Blazers to continue to move forward with their plan to reshape the roster around Lillard. The team is also preparing to commit a long-term extension this summer to 21-year-old Anfernee Simons who has excelled this season with Lillard and McCollum missing time. Portland created a $20.8 million trade exception with the deal and will have up to potentially $60 million in cap space this summer to go along with the draft picks they received from both the Norman PowellRobert Covington deal with the LA Clippers and this deal with New Orleans.

The Blazers are now $17.1 million below the tax for this season.

“On behalf of the Trail Blazers organization, I want to thank CJ McCollum for the integral role he has played in the success of the franchise over the last nine seasons and for his countless acts of service to the Portland community,” interim general manager Joe Cronin said in a statement. “CJ has cemented himself in Trail Blazers history with his elite skill level and memorable moments on the court as well as with the work ethic, professionalism and generosity he displays behind the scenes.”

Hart is having the best season of his five-year career averaging a career-high 13.4 points and 4.1 assists per game. He also has once again become one of the best rebounding guards in the league, with 7.8 boards per game.

Hart signed a three-year contract with New Orleans in the offseason, but the structure of the deal made him very tradable. Hart’s $12.96 million in 2022-23 doesn’t become guaranteed until June, and the same amount for 2023-24 is a player option.

Alexander-Walker was the No. 17 pick in the 2019 NBA draft but has had an up-and-down tenure with New Orleans. Alexander-Walker has struggled from the field this season, shooting 37.5% and 31.1% from deep although he’s been much better in his career when he has had a chance to start (33 starts: 42.2 FG%, 35.0 3P%).

Satoransky lost the Pelicans’ backup point guard spot to two-way guard Jose Alvarado and has played in just one game since returning from health and safety protocols last month.

Nance has played in 37 games for Portland this season, but he has not played since Jan. 5 because of a right knee injury. Snell has played in 38 games for Portland this year, with 10 starts.

Nance is under contract for $9.7 million next season, and Snell is on a veteran’s minimum deal this season.



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