Zach Collins

Connaughton, Collins leave game early with injuries

Connaughton, Collins leave game early with injuries

The Portland Trail Blazers are down two men after guard Pat Connaughton and center Zach Collins both sustained injuries in the first half of action against the Spurs 

 

Connaughton injured himself on what looked to be a non-contact play midway through the second quarter. Connaughton passed the basketball to Jake Layman for a dunk, but immediately fell to the ground clinching his left leg. He was able to walk off the court under his own power, but quickly headed to the locker room.

The Trail Blazers later announced the he would not return due to a left hamstring strain.

As for Collins, it isn’t know when his injured occurred, but he could be seen being looked at by team trainers late in the second quarter. He limped to the locker room at halftime favoring his right leg.

The Trail Blazers would later announce that Collins suffered a right quad contusion and would not return.

It is not yet known if the injuries will keep Connaughton and Collins sidelined for an extended period. We will bring you updates as soon as we have more information

Trail Blazers' Zach Collins dealing with 'frustrating' start to Summer League

Trail Blazers' Zach Collins dealing with 'frustrating' start to Summer League

LAS VEGAS – Zach Collins on Sunday said he felt better about his second Summer League game, but the Trail Blazers rookie says he remains frustrated that his offensive game is sputtering.

“I thought I played a little better; just couldn’t hit a shot,’’ said Collins, who had five points on 1-for-7 shooting in the Blazers’ 70-64 loss to Boston. “It’s frustrating. I don’t feel like offensively I’m playing as well as I could be, and that ball isn’t going in right now. I just have to keep going at it.’’

In the Blazers’ first game on Saturday, Collins was 3-for-13, after which he described his play as “terrible.’’

The Blazers coaching staff is trying to temper expectations of the No. 10 overall pick – both of Collins and the fan base – by focusing on what they are saying is solid defense.

Collins, who is admittedly his harshest critic, says his defense should never waver. 

“I feel like my defense is going to be there consistently, because that’s an effort thing,’’ Collins said. “That’s something I can control – the effort.’’

Offensively, Collins said he felt like he rushed shots inside and said he needs to get to the basket more often. Whether or not that is a byproduct of him feeling pressure to produce in front of his hometown, or to live up to his No. 10 draft position, Collins said it doesn’t matter.

“Regardless of where I’m drafted, I hold myself to a high standard,’’ Collins said. “Obviously, I’m not hitting shots right now, but I have to know the work I’ve put in to get to the point that the shots are eventually going to fall.’’

Jim Moran, the Blazers’ Summer League coach, said the biggest thing that will help Collins is the weight room.

“What excites us the most is his work ethic, his ability to pop and shoot 3’s and he listens, pays attention,’’ Moran said. “I’m excited once he gets around our weight staff and gets a chance to hit the weight room and bulk up he will really be able to expand his game.’’

In the meantime, Collins is learning how to deal with frustration.  

“It’s hard. He’s out here and he wants to play well, miss a couple shots and things don’t go his way and it gets frustrating ,’’ Moran said. “He’s very hard on himself … that’s one thing, he has a high standard for himself, he always thinks there’s something he could do better and that’s something we like as coaches.’’

Poor shooting dooms Trail Blazers in loss against Boston

Poor shooting dooms Trail Blazers in loss against Boston

LAS VEGAS – There wasn’t a lot of happy faces around the Trail Blazers on Sunday after few, if any, played well during Sunday’s 70-64 loss to Boston at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Portland missed its first six shots, fell behind 11-0, and skidded to the finish from there while shooting 27.9 percent in a game that was stop-and-go because of a litany of fouls.

Blazers’ top draft pick Zach Collins didn’t have the rebound offensive performance he hoped for after sputtering in his debut, but he once again showed signs of being a reliable and sturdy defender. Collins had five points, five rebounds and two blocks while making 1-of-6 shots from the field and 3-of-6 from the free throw line.

Caleb Swanigan, the Blazers’ other first round pick, finished with 12 points and seven rebounds while making 4-of-12 shots.

It wasn’t any better for the Blazers’ roster holdovers, Jake Layman (1-for-13) and Pat Connaughton (5-for-11), who hit his last three shots. 

Boston got off to a quick start thanks to two of their prized youngsters. Second-year player Jaylen Brown hit his first two three-pointers and No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum continues to impress as a polished and NBA-ready rookie. Brown had 13 points and eight rebounds while Tatum finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. 

Blazers' Zach Collins on his Summer League debut: "Terrible"

Blazers' Zach Collins on his Summer League debut: "Terrible"

LAS VEGAS – Trail Blazers’ rookie Zach Collins didn’t mince words when it came to evaluating his Summer League debut on Saturday:

“Terrible,’’ the 7-footer said after the Blazers’ 72-63 win over Utah. “Terrible … I just didn’t play well.’’

Collins finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, but had six turnovers and shot 3-of-13 from the field. Many of his turnovers came when he was stripped inside or lost control of the ball in traffic.

“I was soft,’’ Collins said.

Inside the Blazers, the evaluation was much more measured.

Jim Moran, the Blazers’ assistant coach who is serving as Summer League head coach, said he could see Collins beating himself up in the locker room while looking at the boxscore, but he said the 19-year-old was probably obsessing about the wrong things. 

“From a coaching standpoint … we are more concerned about the defense, and on defense he was good,’’ Moran said. “That’s the one thing when we watch film tomorrow, we will stress his defense. Just being in the right place, setting screens, getting guys open … it’s the little things first. He’s going to get his shots, and they are going to fall, but he can’t judge his play off the stat sheet.’’

Collins showed flashes offensively, particularly early. He threaded a nice bounce pass to a cutting Jake Layman that resulted in a dunk, then later hit a turnaround baseline jumper.

On defense, his four blocks were are the obvious highlight, but the coaching staff said he also stood out in the subtleties of the game, such as moving his feet, rotating to help and fighting through screens.

More than anything, Collins showed the fire and competitiveness that the organization touted when they traded up to take him with the 10th overall pick. Never was it more evident than his immediate postgame assessment of being “terrible,” a mood that didn’t subside 30 minutes after the game had ended.

“I’m my biggest critic, so right now I’m going to give you guys some pretty negative stuff about myself,’’ Collins said. “That’s just the way it is.’’

Caleb Swanigan leads Trail Blazers' opening win with double-double

Caleb Swanigan leads Trail Blazers' opening win with double-double

LAS VEGAS – It didn’t take long for the Trail Blazers rookies to make an impact Saturday in the Blazers’  72-63 win over Utah in both team's Las Vegas Summer League opener.

Caleb Swanigan, the No. 26 overall pick in last month’s draft, scored the first basket of the game on what figures to be his signature play – an offensive-rebound putback in traffic.

One offensive possession later, Zach Collins – the No. 10 overall pick – threaded a nice backdoor bounce pass to Jake Layman, who dunked. Collins, a 19-year-old 7-footer, followed up the pass with a polished turnaround jumper from the baseline on the next possession.

By the end of the game, it was Swanigan who made the biggest impression as the 6-foot-9 power forward finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds and several hustle plays that ended up with him on the court or saving balls from going out of bounds. Half of his points came from the free throw line as he punished Utah inside, even as he struggled through 4-of-12 shooting, which included one three pointer. 

Collins, meanwhile, had a sputtering debut as he went 3-for-13 from the field and had five turnovers. Most of his turnovers came as he struggled to secure the ball in traffic, resulting in him being stripped or losing control. Collins finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.

Pat Connaughton, the Blazers player with the most at stake at Summer League, struggled with his shot – missing all five, including three three-pointers – but he finished with a game-high six assists. Connaughton needs a solid showing in Las Vegas in order for the Blazers to guarantee his $1.4 million contract before the July 25 deadline.

Jake Layman, who started at small forward, had 13 points and five rebounds while making 4-of-8 from the field, including 2-of-6 from three-point range.

Utah was led by guard Donovan Mitchell, the No. 13 overall pick, who had 19 points.

Next up: Blazers vs. Boston, Sunday 5:30 p.m. (CSN, ESPN2)

Trail Blazers' Summer League primer

Trail Blazers' Summer League primer

LAS VEGAS – Before the Trail Blazers begin Summer League play on Saturday here’s a quick primer on some subplots and storylines heading into the first game:

Biggest stakes:  Nobody has more riding on this Summer League than third-year guard Pat Connaughton, who needs a solid outing to have his contract picked up by the team. The Blazers have until July 25 – or a little more than a week after Summer League ends – to decide whether to guarantee Connaughton’s $1.47 million contract for next season.

Connaughton will start at shooting guard and head coach Terry Stotts on Friday said he will be one of the players to push the ball upcourt and initiate offense. Connaughton said one of his goals is to show he is more than a catch-and-shoot player, a trait that he feels he showed last season when he had 19-points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds in the regular season finale.

The team hopes he has a Summer League breakthrough similar to that of Allen Crabbe in 2015, and certainly part of that breakthrough will be shooting the ball better than he did last year in Las Vegas, when he made 34 percent of his shots from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Right now, Connaughton is holding down the 15th and final roster spot, but if he is less-than impressive, it’s conceivable the Blazers will explore using their tax-payer mid-level exception ($5.192 million) for the final roster spot.

The Main Attraction: Most eyes will be on first-round picks Zach Collins (No. 10 overall) and Caleb Swanigan (No. 26 overall) to see how they fare against bigger and better competition.

Collins, the 7-footer from Gonzaga, is being likened to the next Kevin McHale, while Swanigan – a 6-foot-9, 250-pound bruiser – is reminding some people of Zach Randolph.

The book on Collins is that he is tough, competitive and very skilled. He might be a little slight in build, but he is only 19 and figures to fill out. And I can tell you this: the kid has a confident air about him that he belongs.

First impressions of Swanigan: the Blazers veterans are going to love him. He’s all about hard work, and letting his actions do his talking. I think he is going to be relentless in pursuit of rebounds, and I’m interested in seeing how he defends.

Who is starting? The only question mark is who will start at point guard, but the bet here is it will be RJ Hunter, the former first-round pick of the Boston Celtics.

Hunter is more of a two guard, but the Blazers like his basketball intelligence and ball handling. The other starters are locked in stone: Connaughton at shooting guard, Jake Layman at small forward, Caleb Swanigan at power forward and Zach Collins at center.

How can you watch?  If you are unable to make it to Las Vegas, you can still watch the games on television. CSN will broadcast Saturday’s 3 p.m. opener with Utah and Sunday’s 5:30 p.m. game against Boston. Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd will call the games from Portland.

Tuesday’s 1 p.m. game against San Antonio will be on ESPNU.

Keep an eye out for … : Jake Layman playing some power forward, or “Stretch 4.” Layman in his rookie season played exclusively at small forward, but Connaughton this week revealed that the team has been experimenting with Layman as a Stretch.

With the Blazers’ abandoning their experiment with Meyers Leonard as a four, there is some opportunity for the 6-foot-9 Layman to carve out a niche if he is able to guard opposing power forwards.

NBA experience on Blazers’ roster:  Aside from the Blazers’ holdovers on the roster, the Blazers have brought in five players who have NBA experience.

Jordan Adams, a 6-5 guard, played 32 games with Memphis over two seasons, and guard Markel Brown (6-3) played in 109 games, including 35 starts, in two seasons with Brooklyn.

Jorge Gutierrez, a 6-3 guard, played 47 games over four seasons with Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Charlotte and Nick Johnson, a 6-3 guard, played 28 games with Houston three seasons ago.

The biggest name, however, might be RJ Hunter, the 2015 first-round pick (28th overall) of the Boston Celtics. Hunter, who  is a 6-5 guard who played in 39 games over two season with Boston and Chicago. He famously hit a three-pointer in the NCAA Tournament to help Georgia State upset Baylor.

Who is the coach? Assistant Jim Moran will serve as acting head coach, which he says is the first time he has ever served in that role. He joked that his biggest worry – of which he warned Pat Connaughton – is being left hanging if he offers a high-five to a player.

Odds and Ends: The most points by a Blazers player in Summer League is Jerryd Bayless, who had 36 against Phoenix in 2008. The most rebounds is 18 by Thomas Robinson in 2013 and the most assists is 10 by Sebastian Telfair (2005) and Kevin Pinkney (2006).

And Remember … : Good or bad, don’t put too much stock into what happens in Summer League. I can remember watching Nicolas Batum as a rookie have trouble bringing the ball upcourt and wondering if he would ever make it. By the first week of the regular season he was a starter.

Also, Summer League is often dominated by guards, simply because it’s generally an up-and-down pace where the guards control the ball.

The Fourth was no holiday for Trail Blazers' summer-league team

The Fourth was no holiday for Trail Blazers' summer-league team

TUALATIN -- It was a holiday, but not for the aspiring basketball players on the Portland Trail Blazers' summer-league roster.

Tuesday was the first day of practice for the team, which opens play in the Las Vegas Summer League Saturday at 1 p.m. against the Utah Jazz in Cox Pavilion.

The team went through a two-hour session at the team's practice facility and all eyes were on recent draftees Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan.

"They're good," said two-year Trail Blazer veteran Pat Connaughton, who will spend his third summer playing in the league. "They're big bodies and they work hard and that's about all you can ask of young guys that come in. It will be fun to work with them and play with them and watch them grow throughout summer league and hopefully, throughout the season."

Connaughton was asked to break down what he saw from each player during Tuesday's practice.

On Collins, the seven-footer out of Gonzaga, he said, "He's a hard worker, he's big and he's skilled. Obviously I've only been with each of the rookies for a day and I'll be able to tell you more at the end of summer league but from the standpoint of his ability to play basketball, he's got a knowledge for it, he's got a feel for it and wben he's able to build his size even more from a strength standpoint -- he's 19 years old -- that will be huge for him. He's the got the skills and the tools to be a phenomenal NBA player."

And Swanigan, the 6-9 forward from Purdue: "The kid works hard ... He's a guy who is going to find a way to make his way in this league just off sheer ability to defend, rebound, put back -- and he can make a jumper. He can shoot, better than I thought -- but I hadn't watched a ton of his games -- and that's always an important thing, especially in today's NBA."

Beginning Saturday in a game telecast on CSN -- Portland fans will get their first look.

Behind Neil Olshey's excitement for Blazers' rookies is talent and some grit

Behind Neil Olshey's excitement for Blazers' rookies is talent and some grit

Before Trail Blazers rookies Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan even put on a Portland jersey, there have been some pretty heady statements tossed around.

Collins, on the night he was drafted No. 10 overall, confidently and matter-of-factly stated that he doesn’t see a reason why he can’t win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.

And for Swanigan, the 26th overall pick, his surrogate father Roosevelt Barnes said on Monday that the goal is for the 6-foot-9 forward to some day lead the NBA in rebounding.

It’s part of the reason why Blazers’ president of basketball operations Neil Olshey has been buzzing since Thursday’s draft, telling any one and every one about the skill of Collins and the toughness and relentless nature of Swanigan.

“We are incredibly pleased with what we were able to accomplish in the draft with both of these guys,’’ Olshey said Monday.

Not since 2013, when Olshey gushed about stealing CJ McCollum with the 10th overall pick, has Olshey been so effusive in praise of his picks.

His confidence flies in the face of critics who say the 19-year-old Collins didn’t start in high school until his senior year, and came off the bench during his only season at Gonzaga.  It also belies those who say that Swanigan is a “tweener” who is not quick enough to guard small forwards and not big enough to neutralize power forwards.

So what is it about these two that has Olshey so enthusiastic?

The more people talk about Collins and Swanigan, the more the same words keep surfacing: Fight. Tough. Compete.

“They are aggressive,’’ coach Terry Stotts said. “And I like their mentality.’’

**

Swanigan has a well-documented background of living in homeless shelters as a youth and attending more than a dozen schools between Indianapolis and Salt Lake City.

His father was in and out of jail, and struggled with drug addiction, which eventually contributed to his death at the age of 50. It is the reason Swanigan will wear No. 50 for the Trail Blazers.

Compounding his childhood struggles was a weight problem that Swanigan says ballooned to 350 pounds as an eighth grader.

When he was 13, at the urging of his older brother, Caleb was adopted by Roosevelt Barnes, a former three-sport athlete at Purdue who became a sports agent. Barnes, who played three seasons as a linebacker for the Detroit Lions in the NFL, had coached Caleb’s brother in AAU basketball.

“He gave me structure early on, support, everything you would want a father to do for you,’’ Swanigan said. “He’s always held me accountable, always told me the truth in everything I did, and that’s all I could ask from someone.’’

At first, Swanigan was a tough shell to crack.

“Very quiet. Very guarded,’’ Barnes said. “Which was natural because of the environment he was in. He didn’t express a lot. But he was always really intelligent.’’

An early conversation, Barnes said, was teaching Swanigan the origin of his first name.

“First thing we talked about was who he was and what his name meant,’’ Barnes said.

He told him the Biblical story of Caleb, and how he was one of Moses 12 spies.

“Caleb made it to the Promised Land,’’ Barnes said. “So I told him he was supposed to make it.’’

The biggest lesson in his quest for the Promised Land, Swanigan said, was developing a work ethic. In six years, he shed 100 pounds and earned Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award as the state’s top prep player. He went on to attend Purdue, where he shed 15 more pounds and became the Big Ten player of the year last season.

“Never stop working, that’s my biggest thing I try to carry about myself,’’ Swanigan said. “Always keep working, always keep my head down and focused on a narrow path.’’

**

While Swanigan’s story is more rags-to-riches, Collins has been groomed to be on the elite stage from an early age.

But that hasn’t come without some hardship.

He was white in a black-man’s game, and even though he was skilled, he went through an awkward stage during a late-growth spurt.

“I just think from a young age, regardless if I’m white or black, I’ve been doubted and had certain expectations that I’ve exceeded,’’ Collins said.

At Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, the school won four consecutive state titles, but he wasn’t a starter until his senior season.

“The simple answer is I was a late bloomer,’’ Collins said. “Up until my junior year, I wasn’t a jumper. My sophomore year I was 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8, and I could barely dunk. My body just took a long time to develop. So from middle school to high school a lot of people have doubted what I can do on the court.’’

Once his body was done growing into its 7-foot frame, he still had the skill of a 6-foot-5 wing.

“At first I wasn’t very quick, I was a little clumsy, then once my body developed, people understood that I could actually play,’’ Collins said.

It’s not just the skills that stand out with Collins, however. His demeanor, according to Olshey and Stotts, is that of a winner. He fights for rebounds. He challenges people trying to dunk. He scraps on the floor for loose balls. And above all, he carries himself with an air that he belongs.

“My dad was a guy who taught me to never back down from anybody,’’ Collins said.

His dad, Mike, is 6-foot-10 and was once the Nevada high school player of the year. He went on to play collegiately at New Mexico State and was planning to transfer to Duke before he had a severe foot injury that ended his career.

“When he played he wasn’t the most skilled guy on the court all the time, but he was probably the meanest wherever he went,’’ Collins said. “That kind of runs in the family.’’

If Mike was the meanest wherever he went, Collins’ mom, Heather, might be the toughest.

“My mom is a fighter ,’’ Collins said. “Everybody hears about my dad, and that’s great, but mom is really the one who holds it down at home.’’

Heather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Zach was a child.

“She acts like she doesn’t have it,’’ Collins said. “She’s probably going to be mad I told you, because she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her. She just fights through it. You wouldn’t be able to tell unless you knew.’’

**

The first test for both rookies will be at the Las Vegas Summer League. The Blazers kick off their schedule on July 8 against Utah, when Collins is expected to start at center and Swanigan at power forward.

It will be the first inkling whether Olshey’s giddy mood the past week is warranted.

For Swanigan, he says fans should not judge him on his stats, but rather his effort. If at any time they don’t feel like he is giving effort, he says they should “boo me off the court.’’

Much of that effort, he says, will be exerted in the pursuit of rebounds.

What makes a good rebounder?

“Going every time. That mentality. There’s nothing else but that. Wanting the rebound every time,’’ Swanigan said. “And not being tired. So you have to be in the best shape if you want to be the best rebounder.’’

At Purdue last season, Swanigan led the Big Ten with 12.5 rebounds as a sophomore and had the nation’s No. 2 defensive rebounding percentage.

“If you are going to be a great rebounder – you have to have want-to,’’ Barnes, his adopted father said. “He wants to be best rebounder in the league. He’s always been the best rebounder wherever he has been – every team, every league – he has always been the best. So his goal is to come here and be the No. 1 rebounder in the NBA. Most people, they think about they want to score – he wants to do the dirty work.’’

Collins, meanwhile, already has his teammates intrigued.

McCollum has amassed a scouting report on Collins and came away impressed.

“Collins is polished and very skilled,’’ McCollum said. “I hear comparisons to (Orlando center Nik) Vucevic. I think he has a big ceiling.’’

Whether the heady talk and exuberant moods of executives is warranted will play out over the coming seasons, although Olshey forecasted that both rookies will make a contribution this season.

“I’m going to try and go in and have high goals for myself,’’ Collins said.

And that, is a start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hooked on a feeling: Neil Olshey was sold on Zach Collins in January

Hooked on a feeling: Neil Olshey was sold on Zach Collins in January

It was in January this year when Neil Olshey had a feeling about Zach Collins.

Throughout his career as an NBA executive, Olshey had often experienced a defining  moment in his evaluation of college players that changed his view of a player from a prospect to a target.

On Thursday, Olshey used his latest feeling to trade up in the NBA draft to select Collins – a 7-footer from Gonzaga -- with the 10th overall pick.

“He is a franchise-level building block,’’ Olshey said.

It’s not the first time Olshey has felt this way about a player.

In 2013, Olshey drove through an east-coast snowstorm to watch a Lehigh guard named CJ McCollum. It wasn’t the 34 points McCollum scored that night against Bryant College that stuck with him. And it wasn’t the fact McCollum missed a floater at the buzzer to win it.

It was how the loss gutted McCollum to the point where he stayed motionless in the key after the buzzer sounded. To Olshey, it showed a player who cared more about winning than his individual stats.

That summer, Olshey took McCollum with the 10th pick, and McCollum today has emerged as one of the NBA’s most prolific and creative scorers.

The year before, in 2012, after an afternoon of workouts with draft prospects, Olshey picked up a point guard named Damian Lillard on the way to a dinner with owner Paul Allen. Olshey was fresh on the job with the Blazers and didn’t know the area beyond the Blazers’ practice facility, and soon found himself lost en route to Oswego Grill.

“I remember he didn’t know where he was going,’’ Lillard would say later. “We got off on the wrong exit. Then we had the right exit, but were going the wrong way … and he was all mad, saying ‘Where the hell we at!’’’

During it all, Olshey remembered looking over at Lillard. He was calm. Cool. Unfazed. And as Lillard recalled, he remembered telling Olshey, “I know you are going to find it.’’

To Olshey, that moment of chaos revealed something special about Lillard. The young point guard was cool under pressure. And he was supportive of a teammate, even if it was an executive stressing behind the wheel.

A few weeks later, Olshey took Lillard with the No. 6 overall pick, and Lillard has shown the same traits both on and off the court as he has become on of the NBA’s marquee players.

Which brings us to January, and Collins, and Olshey’s latest moment.

The scene was the University of Portland’s Chiles Center and the event was Gonzaga at Portland, where Olshey and assistant general manager Bill Branch went to scout Collins.

At the time, the Blazers were scuffling through a disappointing season, were out of the playoff picture, yet to inflicted with Nurkic Fever. They were targeting lottery picks and were unsure whether they would find a target at the West Coast Conference game.

But soon, they saw a 7-footer who had a nice shooting touch. He also defended. He was also tough and competitive. Then, there was one play that sealed it. It wasn’t as subtle as the McCollum or Lillard moments, but it was enough to turn him from prospect to target.

“He caught a ball on the left block, got doubled teamed, and threw a behind-the-back, no-look pass,’’ Olshey said.

He turned to Branch.

“I said, OK Billy, we can go home,’’ Olshey said. “We’re done. Top 10 pick. We knew right then.’’

**

Funny thing is, in one way, Collins beat Olshey to the punch when determining his fate.

In October of 2012, when Collins was 14, he was playing the NBA 2k video game, which enables you to create yourself as a player. Collins created his profile and entered the video game’s draft.

He was selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th overall pick, which he captured with a photo and tweeted.

As he remembers, Collins that season with the Blazers on the video game won the Rookie of the Year.

“Possibly MVP,’’ Collins said.

Nearly five years later, Collins acknowledged that video games are easier than real basketball, but that didn’t stop him from aspiring to match his 2012 “award.”

“I don’t see why I cant be the Rookie of the Year,’’ Collins said.

While Olshey touted the Las Vegas-native as a franchise-level building block, he also cautioned that Collins might take some time to make an impact, especially on a deep  and experienced team like the Blazers.

Still, Olshey offered a glowing assessment.

“He’s the whole package,’’ Olshey said. “He’s a big-time rim protector, a great one-on-one defender, a big time post defender, he can really pass it … he can stretch the floor, score over both shoulders … he’s everything you look for in a big man in our league today.’’

**

By Thursday morning, Olshey and his staff knew they wanted Collins, but weren’t sure he was attainable. The Blazers owned the 15th, 20th and 26th picks and long knew Collins wouldn’t last until the 15th pick based in part by their inability to get him to Portland for a workout.

“We had no shot to get him in (to Portland for a workout),’’ Olshey said. “There was no way he was going to be there at 15. I think we got lucky he got to 10.’’

Olshey figured the key would be Sacramento at 5 and New York at 8. If the Kings didn’t get a point guard with the No. 5 pick, the conventional wisdom was they would use 10 to pick either Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith. But once Boston drafted Jayson Tatum at No. 3, it opened the way for the Kings to take point guard De’Aaron Fox at five, giving them flexibility to explore trades.

And when Ntilikina went to the Knicks at eight – not Malik Monk like some had projected – he knew it was time to pounce at the chance to get Collins.

So Olshey swapped 15 and 20 with the Kings for No. 10.

“He’s the only guy we would move both picks to get,’’ Olshey said.

In reality, Olshey’s anxiety about Collins started in March as Collins started taking on a bigger role in Gonzaga’s run through the conference and NCAA tournaments.

“He just kept playing better and better, and we kept getting more and more frustrated, knowing the more minutes he got, the more the rest of the country was going to catch up,’’ Olshey said.

In the end, Olshey followed his gut and that feeling from January, and got his man.

The plan is to play Collins as a backup to Jusuf Nurkic, and perhaps at times alongside Nurkic against bigger lineups.

Collins says he doesn’t want to pigeon-hole himself as a center or a power forward, he just wants to play, improve, and mostly, win. Other than that, he says he doesn’t know much about the team outside of the latest players who Olshey had a “feeling” about -- Lillard and McCollum.

“I just know they are a tough team and they don’t really back down from anybody – and those are traits I grew up with and those are part of my game as well,’’ Collins said. “I think … I can fit in perfectly there.’’

Trail Blazers may have addressed several needs with draft picks

Trail Blazers may have addressed several needs with draft picks

If you want to go down a checklist of things the Trail Blazers could have sought in the 2017 draft that would make their team better, it might go this way:

  • Outside shooting in the front court.
  • Rim protection.
  • Overall defensive improvement.
  • Toughness.
  • More players who can pass.

And after the draft, you might just be able to put a checkmark next to all those categories.

Portland traded two first-round picks for Gonzaga center/forward Zach Collins at No. 10 and then selected Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan at No. 26.

Collins, a seven-footer, doesn't lack for confidence, calmly telling the Portland media via conference call, "I don't see why I can't be rookie of the year."

Neil Olshey, Portland's director of basketball operations, called him "a franchise-level building block" and pushed Collins as a rim-protector, one-on-one defender, pick-and-roll defender and gritty competitor. "We got lucky he got to 10," Olshey said.

Swanigan, a 6-9 forward who can pass and make threes, is known for what is now his rags-to-riches story of attending 15 different schools and living in homeless shelters before getting his weight under control and his life together. "An incredible kid... a great story," Olshey said.

If social media is any indication (and it's not always) the Blazer fan base came away from draft night with a degree of disappointment. There was no blockbuster trade involving Jimmy Butler or Paul George and no drafting of any of the available Oregon Ducks.

But Olshey is sticking to the plan he's had since taking over this roster. "At the end of the day, we have to do what's right, long-term," he said.

The Blazers have built around Damian Lillard and his career arc. The idea is to accumulate players around Lillard's age or younger, then grow them together and be ready as a team for a championship run when Lillard reaches his peak.  Collins is still 19 and Swanigan turned 20 just a couple of months ago so both will need development time.

But front-court players who can make threes, pass and defend always have a shot at playing time. Collins, I would expect, has a real shot at earning rotation minutes as a rookie. Swanigan is one of those players who doesn't quite fit a position but is what Olshey called "a basketball player" -- and the league is shifting more and more to players who don't necessarily fit a stereotype.

How will it work out? Nobody really knows... but it's going to be fun to watch.