NBA Draft Profile: Zach Collins
Measurables: 7’0, 232 pounds
Statistics: 10.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 0.4 APG
Zach Collins was a freshman on the deepest team (Gonzaga) in the nation and only recorded 17.3 minutes per game, but showcased an intriguing skill-set during his time on the court. A mobile 7-footer, Collins runs the floor well and uses great lateral quickness on the defensive end to rotate and block shots. Collins swatted 1.8 shots per game at Gonzaga, which translates to 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes, meaning he recorded a block every ten minutes of action. On offense, Collins is very efficient and polished when operating out of the post. He is comfortable going over either shoulder, deploys a hook shot to shoot over defenders and his use of deliberate pump-fakes down low, often allow him to make opponents look silly as they leave their feet. Collins also flashed the ability to knock down jump-shots and hit on 10 of his 21 3-point attempts, a trait that will continue to grow at the next level. The Las Vegas native is also a fierce competitor and despite a more slender frame is extremely effective when finishing through contact. Collins also proved to be a clutch performer and was named to the 2017 All-Tournament team, where he posted a 6 block double-double against South Carolina and shot 65% from the field throughout the entire dance. Collin’s size, hands and leaping ability allow him to be a plus rebounder and an outlet in the screen and roll game.
Any time a freshman only records 17.3 minutes per game, you’re going to be projecting a lot of their skills and how they will translate to the next level. That’s the case with Collins. While he shot well from deep at Gonzaga and was effective when facing opponents up, the sample size is just too small to know if he’ll actually be a good shooter at the next level. Furthermore, some scouts are worried that Collins’ strong block numbers were a product of his weaker level of competition in the West Coast Conference. These two issues underline the main problem with Collins, because of his situation at Gonzaga; it is difficult to accurately project his ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim. This will give some teams in the 1st round a cause for concern, considering rim protection and floor spacing are the two most coveted skills for an NBA big man to have today. Finally, Collins can be too slow when operating in the post and is not a willing passer (under half an assist per game) at this stage in his development. However, when he does pass the rock, he is accurate with a quick release.
Collins is a tier-2 prospect in this draft class and has mostly been projected to go in the 10-12 range. However, the teams picking 9-14 are all deep in the front court and that may lead to Collins slipping in the draft. For his career, I believe Collins would be best suited to go 15 or 16 to either the Portland Trail Blazers or the Chicago Bulls. Sure, the Blazers acquired Jusuf Nurkic at the trade deadline, but Festus Ezeli and Meyers Leonard could be cap casualties, creating a need for a backup center in Rip City. Collins could be an instant contributor as a rim protector and another scoring option off the bench and if he ever reaches his potential as a shooter, would be an unbelievable fit with Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum. In Chicago, Collins could round out the Bulls front court rotation with Robin Lopez and Bobby Portis and is versatile enough to play with either of them. Just like in Portland, Collins wouldn’t be rushed in Chicago and could slowly develop his skills early in his career.
Since Collins’ NBA potential depends on his progress as a shooter and shot blocker, I’ll give an optimistic comparison and pessimistic one. An optimist would look at Collins’ game and see a lot of similarities to that of the Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner. Both are efficient scorers, can stretch the floor and protect the rim. Turner is a bit of a mini-unicorn that will lead the Pacers into the inevitable post Paul George rebuild and if Collins can continue to grow on both ends of the floor, he could be seen as a building block, just a few short years down the road. Now a pessimist would see Collins as a rotational big capable of contributing in a multiple areas, but lacking the firepower necessary to be a star in today’s league, a la an Amir Johnson. Now Collins is 3 inches taller than Johnson and a better fit at center, but could develop into the unsung hero type player that Johnson has become in Boston.