The New Orleans Pelicans acquired guard CJ McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a seven-player trade on Tuesday that comes as the Pelicans make a push to qualify for the NBA postseason.
New Orleans receives:
- CJ McCollum
- Larry Nance Jr.
- Tony Snell
- Josh Hart
- Tomas Satoransky
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker
- Didi Louzada
- 2022 first-round pick (protected)
- Two future second-round picks
The trade marks the end of an era in Portland, where McCollum has been paired with Damian Lillard in the backcourt since 2013. Portland has reached the playoffs every season since they drafted McCollum. However, the Blazers struggled in the postseason, reaching the Western Conference finals only once while being eliminated in the first round five times.
Countless clutch buckets
A fixture in the Portland community
FOREVER a part of the Blazers family
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 9, 2022
The 30-year-old McCollum is averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds this season. He has averaged 20 points or more for seven straight seasons and missed 17 games earlier this season because of a collapsed lung, but has regained his familiar scoring form since then.
He gives the Pelicans a needed outside shooting threat at a time when New Orleans appears to be on the upswing under first-year coach Willie Green — despite playing this season without star forward Zion Williamson.
Williamson, incidentally, has been in Oregon trying to rehabilitate from offseason surgery to repair his fractured right foot. It is unclear if he will be ready to return this season.
After starting 1-12, the Pelicans (22-32) have won four straight, including a 110-97 win against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday despite a somewhat shorthanded roster.
Having not flown west yet, Hart and Alexander-Walker showed up at the Pelicans’ game, sitting next to each other in courtside seats. Hart wore a red Pelicans jersey with Ingram’s No. 14 on it. The pair received an enthusiastic ovation from the crowd when shown together on the video board.
“It meant the world to me to see Josh and Nickeil on the sideline and still cheering us on to show us how real of a fan they are of us,” Ingram said. “It’s just weird seeing them on the sideline not playing with us … but I definitely love the support. I think I would have done the same thing if I was in their shoes.”
The Pelicans are No. 10 in the Western Conference, which puts them in the mix for the Play-In Tournament at season’s end. However, they are only 4 1/2 games behind the No. 9-seeded Los Angeles Lakers and just eight games behind the No. 6-seeded Denver Nuggets.
When the game ended, Hart and Alexander-Walker walked onto the court near the Pelicans’ bench, where Green hugged and spoke to them briefly before heading toward the locker room.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Green said. “To have guys show up to a game after they’ve been traded to support their brothers is what we’ve been trying to build — is what we are building — just that connectivity.
“I’m happy that Josh and Nickeil decided to come because it just speaks volumes of who they are,” Green continued. “I’m still trying to hold back some emotions because we’ve gone through a lot early in the season and those guys were major, major contributors to us getting to a point to where we felt comfortable.”
The Pelicans are making less than 33% from 3-point range this season and they are 29th in the league in 3-pointers made. McCollum has shot no less than 37.5% from beyond the arc every season of his career, while shooting 38.4% overall for his career.
A walk down memory lane ❤️
📸: https://t.co/5O1CVAdt07 pic.twitter.com/i4gJ6u7AGJ
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 9, 2022
In 2019, McCollum signed a three-year contract extension worth $100 million that runs through the 2023-24 season. It took effect this season.
This marks the second multiple-player trade the Blazers have made in advance of Thursday’s deadline. On Friday, Portland sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the LA Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow and Keon Johnson. That move was widely seen as financial, as it put the Blazers below the luxury tax threshold.
Lillard, a six-time All-Star, has been sidelined since the start of the year with an abdominal injury that required surgery. Like Williamson, it is unclear when, or if, he will return this season, but Lillard was at the team’s practice facility on Monday putting up a few shots.
Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said Tuesday night that he could not comment on the specifics of the trade because it had not been formally approved. But he did praise McCollum.
“He’s just a professional scorer, man. I always said this even before I coached him: CJ has a 1990s-type game but with like a 2020s flow. He’s so great in the mid-range area, he’s able to create space, he’s got every kind of left-hand, right-hand finish … He’s just a nightmare to guard.”
Hart this offseason agreed to a three-year extension with New Orleans which is worth $37.9 million and includes a third-year player option. He has been a popular and productive role player in New Orleans since being traded to New Orleans during the 2019 offseason — along with forward Brandon Ingram, guard Lonzo Ball and two first-round draft picks — from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a deal that paired Anthony Davis with LeBron James on the Lakers.
Ball has since been traded to Chicago. Hart has averaged 13.4 points and 7.8 rebounds this season.
Alexander-Walker was one of three first-round draft choices the Pelicans made in 2019. He went 17th overall, after New Orleans had taken Williamson first with their own draft choice and center Jaxson Hayes eighth with the first of the two first-rounders acquired from the Lakers.
Alexander-Walker has struggled to produce consistently in his first three season but has been prolific in spurts. He is averaging 12.8 points this season with a season-high of 33 points and a career-high last season of 37 points.
The Blazers have lost five straight and are in 11th place in the Western Conference standings.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.