Making it Rain in Portland

By Oliver Maroney.

Stotts and tots

The Splash Brothers that No One is Talking about, The Rain-Brothers.

We all know about the Golden State Warriors and their young dynamic duo in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. They led the league in three pointers going first and second respectively a few seasons ago, which is why they received the nickname, Splash Brothers. But I believe we have a new floor wetting duo emerging, a duo that almost no one foresaw.

Hello, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. McCollum headed into season number three, Lillard headed into season number four, and coincidentally both coming out of mid-major schools are going to become household names during this NBA season. They’ve both been fasttracked to NBA stardom as their team underwent a significant overhaul this off-season. They’ll look to become the next “Splash Brothers” this season.

The story for Lillard most already know, a two-time all-star, he’s regarded as one of the NBA’s best point-guards. After a $125 million-dollar deal, the Weber State standout is looking to achieve even more. The striking and charismatic guard averaged the most points per game in pre-season, even ahead of Curry, he’s looking to ride that same wave this regular season as well.

With his shooting partner, McCollum, the pair have contributed 41.5 shot attempts per game in their first two contests. By comparison Thompson and Curry have only taken a combined 29.5 shots per game through their first two contests. They even made SI’s 70 reasons to watch the NBA season. Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney stated, “During the preseason, Lillard and McCollum combined to launch 36.9 shots per game, with Lillard leading the league in attempts and McCollum ranking third overall. Both players are electric and a bit unpredictable; their brute force approach should keep the Blazers interesting and potent, even if Portland winds up taking a step back in the standings.”

Not only are the two going to be unpredictable, but the two players know they need to keep shooting in order to keep their team in games this season. The offensive “fire power” on past Trail Blazer units was spread out almost equally, as they boasted one of the NBA’s most consistent starting fives. But since the losses of players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez, Wes Matthews, and Arron Afflalo, this young backcourt is going to be expected to run and gun, allowing for McCollum and Lillard to have the freedom to shoot at will.

Not only are they racking up shot attempts, but points and assists as well. McCollum through two games is averaging 26.5 points per game, while Lillard is averaging 8.5 assists. Both of those lead the team and are good for 5th and 4th in the NBA statistics leaderboard. Along with that, combined, the two are averaging almost half of their teams points as well as about half of their shot attempts.

As it is only two games into the NBA season, we can’t look too far into these statistics. However, we can dissect how much their being played and look into what patterns have started to form.

To compare, I used the Golden State Warriors from 2013-14, which would be the closest equivalent to where McCollum and Lillard are in their respective years. In that year, the Warriors duo was averaging 42 points per game (40% of their teams’ points per game) on 32 shot attempts, shooting 42% from downtown and about 47% from the remainder of the field. Overall, the usage of these two players compares very similarly to Lillard and McCollum.

At 42 shots per game on average, two games into the season, the Trailblazer’s pair is gathering 42 points per game (40% of their teams’ points) and shooting an average of 44% on field goal attempts, while shooting just 34% from 3 point land. Whilst, the 34% is significantly lower than the Warriors pair 2 seasons ago, that number should move up as Lillard is shooting 26% from downtown so far and had averaged 39% last season. If that average does in fact go up, they are looking at almost identical numbers to those of the Splash Brothers two years ago.

The Trail Blazers pair compliment each other very well. Both Lillard and McCollum have the ability to beat people off the dribble and create their own shot, which is very beneficial to their success. If there is something they can look to get better at, it’s getting to the free throw line. Sometimes that comes from star power, but ultimately it’s about creating and being aggressive towards the painted area.

Thompson and Curry average close to 15 free throws per game, while the Blazers duo only average 7, getting that number up will allow the pair to get more points, as both are consistent at the stripe. If both Lillard and McCollum can improve on driving into penetration and getting to the foul line, they’ll undoubtedly be better. They are only 25 and 23 years of age, I expect Lillard and McCollum to continue to improve and carry the bulk of the weight for this Trailblazers offense.

With Terry Stott’s willingness to use the “process” and build around these two, the once terrible off-season will continue to look better as the season and future seasons progress.

As far as a nickname for the up and coming duo, I’d say Splash Brothers 2.0, the alphabet brothers (as their names, first and last, come next in the Alphabet), or the mid-major backcourt. But, ultimately I think they could be the Rain-Brothers, as rain pertains to many, it also is a pretty good summary for the weather in Portland. Either way, when it rains it pours, and the state of Oregon is ready for the storm.

 

Oliver Maroney,
On twitter – @OMaroney

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