I found it very, very interesting to watch CJ live in an NBA arena. I have seen him play a bunch in the NBA on late night TV, but you get a much different feel live in the arena. Every time we saw him play in college, he was pretty much the best player on the floor. It seemed like it was effortless for him to get virtually any shot on the floor that he wanted. If he took it to the rim, you knew he could finish, and if he crossed over or stepped back he could just get his jumper, anywhere. For me, there were pretty striking differences watching his NBA game up close.
First off, he’s small. You watch him warm up and he is small and slight, surrounded by the giants in the NBA. He’s always been slight, but he is dwarfed by a lot of the NBA players. Second, he has had to alter his game a great deal in the NBA. He is pretty much a jump shooter now. Rarely, will he try to finish at the rim. Basically, because, when he beats his man (and he certainly can off the dribble), he meets an athletic 7 footer in the paint. So, he has learned to rely on a midrange pull up game off the dribble, and he shoots a lot of 3’s. His shooting touch and range look even better than his college days. Unfortunately, he had an off night shooting the ball against the Sixers, but you can see the jumper, his form, release, and ball spin, and know he is a shooter.
I also found it interesting to watch him for the minutes when he didn’t play with Lillard. I think Lillard might have been a little banged up, and he warmed up very late, and sat for pretty long stretches. What a shooter Lillard is by the way from distance. Guy was ridiculous in the warmups. With Lillard off the floor, CJ moved over to the point, and although he is a very capable ball handler, he does not have an NBA PG handle. He’s solid, but when Sixers saw him at the 1, they increased the ball pressure, and you could see that CJ was a little uncomfortable. Obviously, he is more effective off the ball. But, I found it very interesting to see how his game has evolved and adapted since his jump to the NBA.
He is not an elite NBA athlete, either in size or physical ability, but he is still able to be a very effective scorer and player. He kind of reminds me a bit of George Gervin when he played in the NBA. Although, Gervin had the ability to drive into the lane and hang with crazy body control. But, I see that game in CJ.