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Pacer trade targets: C.J. McCollum

Could a C.J. McCollum and Victor Oladipo duo work any better than Damian Lillard and McCollum duo?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (4) drives to the basket against Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Credit: Brian Spurlock
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Last season was great but at the end of the day, a first-round exit -- whether in four or seven games -- feels the same. The Pacers pulled off a miracle by trading one All-NBA player for another, with a better contract while adding a future piece.

The next step for the Pacers’ improvement is to make another big move in hopes of avoiding a fourth straight first-round exit, but they can’t give up too many assets in the process.

This article is the first of a four-part series that I’ll be posting every Wednesday in June before the end of the NBA league year. It will preview four possible players the Pacers could acquire to improve their roster.

At first glance you might think the Pacers shouldn’t trade for a player like C.J. McCollum because he’s a shooting guard and so is Victor Oladipo. It’s redundant.

But in today’s NBA you can never have too many playmakers. Both McCollum and Oladipo are slotted as shooting guard but neither one is a traditional catch-and-shoot guard like Reggie Miller, the Pacers’ greatest shooting guard.

McCollum certainly has the skill set to turn the corner, catch and shoot, but he’s also effective with the ball in his hands. He tied for third in the NBA in points scored off of pull-up shots, averaging 8.9 a game and shooting 41.6 percent on those types of shots.

Instead of needing someone to pass him the ball, he can create his own three-point shot right off the dribble.

For his career, he’s shot a ridiculous 41 percent from three while averaging nearly five three’s taken per game.

This shot against Utah is so smooth.

The main concern from anyone is figuring out how an Oladipo-McCollum duo would be any more effective than the Lillard-McCollum duo that got swept in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs by the Pelicans.

The main reason is that the Eastern Conference is easier to play in. The Western conference had eight of the top 11 teams in net rating during the regular season. The Trailblazers actually ranked one spot below the Pelicans in net rating despite being three seeds higher than them in the playoffs.

Now after all of this positivity, you’re probably wondering why Portland would even trade McCollum. The simple answer is cap space. The Trailblazers have $112 million committed to nine players next season, putting them around $8-10 million over the cap.

If they would package a bad contract like Evan Turner’s (two years for $36.4 million left) or Meyers Leonard’s (two years for $21.7 million) with McCollum’s (three years for $82.5 million), they could clear almost enough cap space to create max cap space in 2018 and for sure in 2019.

The cap space would allow Portland to build a deeper team around Lillard and possibly go after a small forward like Paul George or Kawhi Leonard in free agency. George and Leonard would be a better fit with Lillard than McCollum.

The Pacers have plenty of non-guarantee contracts in Darren Collison, Al Jefferson and Bojan Bogdanovic. Indiana also has cap space (around $15 million depending on Lance Stephenson and Thaddeus Young).

The most likely trade scenario would look like this:

**This trade has to happen after July 1 for the Pacers to absorb McCollum’s contract into their cap space***

Portland receives: Domantas Sabonis, Al Jefferson, Bojan Bogdanovic and a 2019 first round pick

Indiana receives: CJ McCollum and Evan Turner