The Portland Trail Blazers have locked up their talented backcourt for the future by signing shooting guard C.J. McCollum to a contract extension a year before he was scheduled to hit restricted free agency. The news was, unsurprisingly, broken by The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
With Damian Lillard having signed a five-year max deal before the 2015-16 season, this means that Lillard and McCollum are both under contract with the Blazers through the 2021 season. Lillard is a superstar, and McCollum has made massive leaps in his three seasons in the league. This was absolutely the right move for Portland, who now get to avoid the nerve-wracking restricted free agency process in the 2017 offseason when the salary cap will be north of $100 million.
That being said, with Lillard, McCollum, Allen Crabbe and new arrival Evan Turner all signed to big money deals, Al-Farouq Aminu and Meyers Leonard getting paid $8 million and $10 million per year for the next few seasons, Portland lacks financial flexibility going forward. That’s territory normally reserved for title contenders, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside of Oregon who would apply that label to the Blazers.
So yes, paying McCollum and keeping him off the market was definitely the correct move on its own, but in the context of the Blazers’ cap sheet, it’s a gamble that this core can improve to compete with the very best in the league. Terry Stotts is a hell of a coach and Lillard has proven to be a strong leader, but they might just be short on talent.