PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Trail Blazers attempted to solidify their backcourt of the future when they selected 6-foot-4 guard C.J. McCollum of Lehigh with the 10th pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.
A year ago, the Blazers used the No. 6 pick and grabbed point guard Damian Lillard, who became this season's NBA Rookie of the Year. McCollum looks to be a complement to Lillard, as the Patriot League's all-time leader scorer is a combo guard likely to fill Portland's need for a perimeter shooter.
"I'm a basketball player. I played one and two all my life," McCollum said. "The situation depends on the roster. I'm comfortable playing off someone running the show. I'd say that I probably will play both positions at some point."
McCollum was an electric scorer during an abbreviated senior season at Lehigh, averaging 23.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. McCollum's final college season ended on Jan. 5 with a broken left foot.
McCollum averaged 21.3 points and 6.3 rebounds and shot 38 percent from 3-point range during his four-year Lehigh career. McCollum was named Patriot League player of the year during his freshman and junior seasons.
McCollum and Lillard have similar backgrounds, in that they both played four years at mid-major schools. Portland coach Terry Stotts said while many people "will lump Damian and C.J. together, they're both their own guys."
The Blazers were clearly thrilled that McCollum was available at No. 10.
"We got a guy at 10 that we had higher on our board," Portland general manager Neil Olshey said. "C.J. is the whole package, very similar to Dame, with the way he carries himself, has incredible confidence and can make plays off the dribble. He's another guy who really wanted to be here."
McCollum said he used social media to reach out to Lillard more than a year ago. The two often talked during McCollum's senior year, and exchanged several text messages Thursday night.
"I'm looking forward to playing with him. Playing all 82 games as a rookie? That's a great guy to learn from," McCollum said.
McCollum said he never worried about his NBA future after fracturing his foot.
"I knew it wasn't a career-ending injury. I had a well-polished resume; had 111 games and started 109. Plenty of film to pull from," McCollum said. "I knew I would be back at some point. I was just concerned about my college career being over."
The Blazers made four picks during the second round.
Portland obtained the No. 31 overall pick during a draft-day trade with Cleveland, taking 6-6 guard Allen Crabbe of California and giving the Cavaliers two future second-round picks.
Crabbe is a two-time All-Pac-12 first-team guard who averaged 15.7 points and 5.7 rebounds during his three-year California career. Crabbe was third among Pac-12 scorers last season at 18.4 points a game.
At No. 39, Portland took 7-foot center Jeff Withey of Kansas. Withey set Big 12 Conference blocked shots records with 146 during a single season (2012-13) and 312 during his four-year career.
One pick later at No. 40, the Blazers tabbed 6-10 forward Grant Jerrett of Arizona. Playing one college season, Jerrett averaged 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Wildcats, but shot 41 percent from 3-point range.
At No. 45, Portland selected Marko Todorovic, a 21-year-old 6-10 forward from Spain.
Olshey indicated that one of the four second-round picks will be dealt, but declined to reveal which one. It appears Crabbe and Withey are here to stay, as Olshey talked at length about what they could add to next year's roster.
"We value shooting and (Crabbe's) ability to play two positions. We're really happy Jeff was there. He's a man, a fifth-year senior. Physically he can play right away," Olshey said.
Next up for Portland is free agency, where the Blazers hope to fill several needs on their current roster.
"We'll enjoy this for a few hours, then we'll come up with a free agent strategy so Terry doesn't have to play with a kiddie corps," Olshey said.