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Pelicans Giving CJ McCollum Tools to Run Offense, Talking New Contract

The New Orleans Pelicans are giving CJ McCollum the tools to run the offense with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson while also discussing a contract extension.

C.J. McCollum will be forever linked to the Portland Trail Blazers. McCollum's nine seasons with Dame Lilliard and a Western Conference Finals appearance left an undeniable legacy in the Pacific Northwest. However, the New Orleans Pelicans are giving McCollum the tools needed to run the offense and build upon the organization's foundation to create a championship culture. The sides are also negotiating what could be up to a three-year extension.

Splitting the offensive burden between Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and McCollum is a low risk-move that gives all three leaders room to be creative and express themselves, a crucial part of the culture-building process according to the front office. McCollum has the stats to lead and the talent to step out of Lilliard's shadow. He also has the personality and character, which led to his peers voting McCollum in as the President of the NBA Player's Association last summer.

Even from the bench, the rehabbing Williamson noticed the professionalism McCollum brought to the team immediately after the trade and through the playoff run. Williamson explained during the press conference following the signing of a max-level contract extension, “Since we added CJ, from the moment I met him, CJ has been a great teammate. CJ has been in the league a long time. He's already put me on game to a few things for longevity.”

The former Lehigh star gave the Pelicans an average of 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest. McCollum made 49.3% of his shots. All of these stats marked career-best production levels. McCollum has been better playing when not sharing the court with Dame Lilliard and the Pelicans are poised to cash in on giving their new star the opportunity to lead a young team.

McCollum was 8th best on catch and shoot three-pointers, giving the Pelicans a lethal outlet when Williamson or Ingram are running the show. Ingram's development as a lead ballhandler working from the midrange and Williamson's low block bullying will open up plenty of open shots for McCollum next season. Now the Pelicans are looking to give out a contract to keep McCollum in town for the next five years.

McCollum is due $33 million and $35 million over the next two years. His next deal will start in his age-33 season and should fall between the recently signed Kyle Lowry (3 yr., $85M), Jalen Brunson (4 yr., $104M), and Chris Paul (4 yr., $120M w/ $75M guaranteed) contracts. Considering the rising revenues and the effect on the salary cap, it would not be out of line for McCollum to seek a season average of $25-30 million on a three-year extension.

A lower rate will help the team avoid a huge luxury tax bill but pushing for more than $32 million annually affects the team's roster-building options, from the tax bill to the mid-level exceptions available. Either way, a few million dollars difference will not greatly affect negotiations. Everyone is in agreement concerning a ballpark figure. McCollum even admitted as much on the Pull Up Podcast and in an Andscape interview.

“I’m not going nowhere. I’m here,” McCollum told Andscape's Marc Spears. “Where am I going to go? Leave for what? I want to retire here. I’m 30 years old and I have a son who is 13 weeks old. I’m married. When you have something good, you hold on to it. This is something fun for both sides. We’re going to grow."

James Harden recently left money on the table to help build a title contender. Likewise, with over $200 million in career earnings in his career, McCollum values the chance at a championship ring more than the last million to be squeezed from any market-rate level deal. The Pelicans cannot hedge their bets after the big trade and will be close enough financially to make everything fit going forward, according to McCollum.

Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said of pending contract extensions for McCollum and Larry Nance Jr., “The only thing that makes it easy is that everybody wants to be here, and that's a real blessing. Because we kept saying that was coming and to see it play out for everyone now, it's beautiful.”

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