Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum been at this thing a while, and even by their lofty standards they are off to a roaring start this season. On Wednesday night, Lillard went for 40 points and 13 assists, and McCollum added 28 points and 10 assists, in the Trail Blazers’ comeback win over the Kings — making them the first pair or Portland teammates to each post at least 25 points and 10 assists in the same game since Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter in 1992.
What’s more, they are just the fourth teammate tandem in history to each score at least 250 points through the first 10 games of a season, joining Shaq and Kobe (2001-02), Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (three times) and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown this season.
Lillard is now the only player to post at least 40 points and 13 assists with zero turnovers in a single game since turnovers became an official stat in 1977. The 40 3-pointers McCollum hit through the first nine games of the season align him with Curry as the only players in history to do that.
So, yeah, Lillard and McCollum continue to be quite terrific, as if we needed any more evidence of this long-established fact. So terrific, in fact, that it’s become pretty hard to argue that they haven’t distinguished themselves as the best backcourt, at least at this moment, in the NBA. On Wednesday night, Lillard scoffed at the idea that anyone might believe otherwise when he called out a reporter whose tweet apparently suggested Lillard and McCollum might not be the clear best backcourt.
To Lillard’s point, anyone trying to even start a conversation about the Wizards’ backcourt of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook potentially being better than Lillard and McCollum is clueless. It’s not even close. Entering play on Wednesday, McCollum is third in the league in scoring (28.1) and Lillard is seventh (27.4). And believe it or not, it has actually been a relatively pedestrian start to the season by Lillard’s standards.
With the way McCollum is taking and making 3-pointers at a career-high clip (11.5 per game at 44 percent) to start this season, he has irrefutably separated himself from Westbrook, and Lillard has long been better than Beal. Chris Paul and Devin Booker have a case in Phoenix, but I’ll take Lillard over Paul by a greater margin than I would take Booker over McCollum.
At this moment, Lillard is right. He and McCollum are the cream of the backcourt crop.
There are two qualifications to consider. First, Thompson isn’t playing right now, but when he returns, he and Curry will certainly have a case against the Blazers’ duo. Second, James Harden just joined Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. We will see how that goes, but certainly the potential is there for that backcourt to establish itself as the standard.
For now, though, Lillard and McCollum are on top.