Zach Collins wants to be the best big man coming out of the 2017 NBA draft, and that’s why the Portland Trail Blazers drafted him with the No. 10 pick on Thursday after a trade with the Kings. We’ve talked at length about the point guards in this draft, but Collins is an athletic seven-footer who could absolutely end up as a steal.
With Gonzaga making a run to the NCAA championship game in April, basketball fans got an extended look at Collins, a big man who’s a work in progress but has a few NBA-ready skills and a real chance to add more. In that championship game, Collins actually came off the bench but acquitted himself well, scoring nine points and snaring seven rebounds in 14 minutes before fouling out.
But college was never the best arena for Collins to showcase his skills. He projects as a modern NBA big man who can play on both ends. It won’t be right away, but give Collins time and he could really shine.
Zach Collins draft prospect scouting report
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Why should Blazers fans be excited about Collins?
Collins has skills you want from a modern NBA big man.
Today’s center is asked to do so much more than the traditional big man of the 1990s and even the 2000s. Collins fits the criteria — he’s a seven-footer who spaces the floor behind the three-point line and who can capably guard smaller players in space. Gonzaga often switched pick-and-rolls involving Collins, trusting him to do an adequate job slowing down quicker players. Because of his quick feet and side-to-side movement, you can trust Collins out there in certain situations.
Collins doesn’t have an Elastigirl wingspan, something that sometimes burns him when defending the rim, but he moves great and is an above-average athlete for his size. He’s definitely not a stiff.
There’s no telling how good Collins could be offensively.
Right now, Collins is solid offensively. He can finish athletically rolling to the rim, including dunking off lobs. He used his jump shot sparingly, only attempting 0.5 threes per game, but he hit 48 percent of them. He occasionally showed off a face-up mid-range shot, or used the threat of that shot to hit an up-and-under around the rim.
It’s really hard to predict how a player’s jump shot will develop, but Collins seems like the perfect candidate to keep improving. His mechanics are simple and sound, a simple right-handed release that doesn’t waste any motion. Collins needs to add muscle and play more physically, but that’s something that applies to every rookie. He’s not a finished product right now, but Collins could be a real offensive force if his skills keep developing.
Is there any reason to be nervous about Collins?
It’s possible that Collins’ athleticism and defense don’t translate as well as we hope against NBA defenses. Certainly, his lack of length — just a 7’1 wingspan despite standing 7’ — may limit him from ever being a dominant defender, and his quick feet that served him well at the collegiate level could be exposed by the NBA’s elite ball handlers.
There are also always going to be questions about a player who is ostensibly a project. Collins has some NBA-ready skills, but the main reason he was a potential lottery pick was his offensive ceiling. It’s just a fact that not everyone reaches their ceiling, and drafting a player like this is always a risk. We think Collins can be a starter-caliber big, but maybe he’s closer to someone like Dwight Powell.
Tell me something else about Collins.
Collins claims that’s he’s a great singer, telling The Spokesman-Review that he hasn’t recorded anything professionally yet but it might be “on the horizon.” On the other hand, his favorite band is ... Green Day. Come on, Zach, we didn’t survive middle school for this.
ZC: My favorite band is probably Green Day. I guess they’re kind of old-school now, they haven’t really come out with a lot but they were big when I was growing up. My favorite rapper is probably Drake because he has such a variety of music. I also like Logic, I’m waiting for him to come out with something special this year. Just a variety of music.