WARR contributor Josh Hicks offers his thoughts on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA
In today’s NBA, it is hard to win without productive back court play from your top guards.
John Wall and Bradley Beal, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade are just a select few of the elite back court combinations that teams can have a hard time trying to slow down.
They’re not so prominent in this week’s headlines, but we should not forget about the dynamic guard play between Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum of the Portland Trailblazers. This scary two-headed monster has taken the league by storm, averaging a combined 50 points a game, and are looking to take major steps to lead Portland deeper into the playoffs this season.
Dame Dolla has always made noise in the league, but this year the 2012 Rookie of the Year and two time All-Star is looking to make a bigger impact on his team. He has increased his scoring average from 25 to 28 points a game and has been more open about his underrated status in the league.
“I want to be the MVP,” Lillard told Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Devine entering this season. “If we come out and do the things we’re capable of doing as a team, if we win games, that means my performance will be at the level of an MVP.”
Lillard is proving his case for an early MVP candidate spot by putting up those impressive numbers, but his leadership will need to elevate in order for the Trailblazers to move up from their current No. 8 seed in an always tough Western Conference and his MVP candidacy will not be taken in vein.
McCollum has continued to improve and develop his own personal spotlight since the Lehigh guard entered the league as the tenth overall pick in 2013.
Throughout his four years in the league, McCollum has increased his scoring and became a legitimate go to scorer for the team, thanks to the continue leadership and support of Lillard and head coach Terry Stotts. He had a breakout season last season, averaging 21 points a game as a starter after coming from a 6 point-a-game season as a player coming off the bench in 2014 and won the most improved player of the year award.
McCollum and Lillard have been picking up where they left off last season, and have already made impressive starts to this season.
CJ’s recent play has gotten him paid this past off-season, signing a $106 million dollar contract extension to stay with the team for the next four years. With Lillard signing a similar extension at $120 million dollars over five years, these two have a chance to take this established culture of winning to the next level.
But they have to continue to elevate their play and make their teammates better in order to give themselves a chance to win the Western Conference.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042