The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2016-17 season was a year defined by high ambitions and unmet expectations. The team saw a regression to the mean after shocking the league just a year prior, but there is plenty of talent on the roster that can help the team improve.
Ahead of 2017-18, Oregon Sports News’ Jared Wright and Bryant Knox will be breaking down the strengths, weaknesses and recent showings from each and every Trail Blazers player. Today, we take a look at the Blazers’ top 2017 Draftee, a guy they traded two draft picks for, Zach Collins.
2016-17 Collegiate Recap
Besides wanting to clear their clogged books of future first-rounders (and the guaranteed money they would receive), the Blazers brass wanted to get another promising prospect for their frontcourt, which has been starved for talent and consistency since LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez left town. Collins won’t provide consistency just yet, but the talent is there.
I took a look at his stats and achievements during his active year in college, and hoooo boooy…
Besides being on a 37-2 Gonzaga team that went to the National Championship Game (breaking Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s streak of terrible NCAA Tournament luck), Collins performed very well individually. He was on the All-Tournament Team after the NCAAs, and his play during the regular season and West Coast Conference Tournament was crucial to the Zags picking up those 37 wins.
Collins was first in the WCC in Games Played, 2PT%, True Shooting Percentage and Total Blocks, second in Blocks Per Game, Total Fouls (something he needs to clean up in order to stick in Portland’s rotation), FGM and FGA, fifth in Total Rebounds, sixth in Free Throws Attempted, Offensive and Total Win Shares, and Total Offensive Rebounds, seventh in Free Throws Made, eighth in Defensive Win Shares and Total Defensive Rebounds, ninth in FT%, and tenth in 2PT Made.
Collins had a productive year, and his performance during the NCAAs was key for Gonzaga, scoring in double figures in three of his six games, dropping a double-double on South Carolina in the Final Four, and swatting a total of 18 shots in the tourney. Collins is the first of the “one-and-done” type of player to pass through Gonzaga, and given where they ended up, I think Few is going to pursue more of them when recruiting, though getting those kinds of kids to come to the Palouse will likely be a problem.
What He Brings to The Table
I admit to not being very familiar with Collins as far as the eye test goes; college basketball is not my thing. Those of you who follow the University of Portland Pilots basketball team will know more about Collins than I do. UP plays in the same conference as Gonzaga, and the Zags have had a stranglehold on WCC basketball for pretty much all of the 21st Century so far.
From what little I’ve seen and his stats, as well as things I’ve heard, Collins is a tough, huge, solid kid that plays closer to the basket, takes shots he can make, and projects as a decent defensive presence. If he does his work and develops well, he could be a solid contributor in the rotation during the latter half of his rookie deal, which would be ideal for the Blazers. Good production on the cheap is the wet dream of all NBA top basketball executives, and players on their rookie deals are at the top of that list.
I’m guessing (emphasis on GUESSING) he won’t see the court much this year; most folks I ask about him say he’s as raw as sushi, which might explain the high foul rate he had in college. Caleb Swanigan seems more ready right now, if a rookie has to be pressed into duty. Still, the ingredients for a productive, solid NBA 4/5 hybrid are there. Portland just has to add the right mix of seasoning, instruction, and reinforcement, and let the mix percolate.
What to Expect in 2017-18
Again, don’t expect much from Collins this year. I will say that he does seem to differ from Meyers Leonard, the athletic, young, lightly seasoned player they drafted at almost the same draft spot as Collins (Meyers was 11th, Collins 10th) five years ago. Five years later, Leonard has become a shooting big man that can’t shoot well, and the constant workouts he’s done over the summer (learning how to roll to the basket, learning better footwork, etc.) might be a reaction to the Blazers drafting Collins. Drafting a young, huge white kid with hops to replace the young, huge white kid with hops who’s more of a known quantity at this point.
That’s beside the point when discussing this season though. If Collins plays in 2018, it’ll either be in garbage time or because the rest of the frontcourt caught a SERIOUS case of the injury bug.
Check out the other articles of this series down below: