The summer between rookie and sophomore seasons in the NBA is typically a critical time for young players, especially one and done college guys.
It took a few weeks of being around Zach Collins, for Summer League head coach Jim Moran to notice the size difference, “The only reason I knew he gained weight this season is because I haven’t seen him wear sleeves all summer. He’s just showing his arms off,” Moran said.
“The days of Zach Collins in sleeves are over, it’s going to be the gun show now,” Moran said with a smile after the win in Las Vegas.
Much has been talked about this offseason; with Blazers big man Zach Collins now developing into a true “big” man.
At quick glance, it’s hard not to notice, Collins has been spending his summer in the weight room. The 20-year-old has put on about 20 pounds since he started his rookie season.
“He’s worked really hard this summer. I think he’s just continuing to grow, continuing to learn our system. He find his spots, where he’s going to get his shots and I think he’s doing a really good job on the defensive end, especially with those switches,” Moran said.
In 66 games played last season, Collins averaged 15.8 minutes per game primarly at the power forward position. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds for the season.
Collins and Blazer backup center Ed Davis became an inseparable duo on and off the court. Last year, Collins played mostly at the four alongside Davis, where he was more of a spread the floor type player. Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey has already said they are looking to use Collins as more of a back-to-the-basket guy this next season.
A guy who had been nicknamed “Big Skinny” by teammates could now turn out to be the Blazers backup center.
“I’m sure there’s going to be lineups when he’s going to have to slide over,” Moran said.
Does Collins himself think he could play center? “That’s the goal to be able to be a four and five guy and keep the defense on their toes, kind of mess with their matchups a little bit."
But don’t think for a second that Collins is even close to done working on his body for the summer.
“I have the height, now I just need the weight,” Collins said.
To Collins, coming in and having a larger impact in his second season has been on his mind.
“I always want to go in preparing for a big role. Last year, I was fortunate enough to have a pretty good role as a rookie on a playoff team and I can only hope to see that grow,” Collins said.
Sports Illustrated analyst Ben Golliver has been impressed with Collins’ transformation while watching him play at Summer League, “what I notice is the swagger, he’s kind of got this little walk to him like-- oh, I’m the man now,” Golliver said.
“When he’s playing confident basketball his skills takeover. He’s always been a skilled player. I think that’s why he was a big time high school recruit and why he was able to go one and done because he had that level of skill,” Golliver said.
Adding size in the NBA is crucial for any young player, but for a player who is trying to figure out whether he can fit at either the four or five position it’s been the one of the most talked about topics surrounding Collins this offseaon, especially with the departure of Ed Davis.
For Golliver, with Collins adding more muscle, it’s not just about standing your ground on the offensive end and making sure you don’t get bullied around, it’s about becoming that guy that can end up being the bully down low.
“Defensively, that’s where I’ve really seen an improvement with him because he looked lost and overwhelmed at times last year… Now he really has a paint presence, he’s using his length to block shots, and just active hands too,” Golliver said.
During the regular season last year, Collins averaged 0.5 blocks per contest, but in Summer League this year, he is averaging 3.3 blocks. Yes, it’s just Summer League, but it’s easy to see that Collins could become more of blocking machine this next season. Having a one-two punch of Jusuf Nurkic, with Collins coming in for Nurk off the bench could be a real possibility.
But before anyone gets too big picture at this point in July, Collins is making sure to focus on Summer League.
“We came in with a goal to win the whole thing, so now we’re only two games away from doing that.”
Portland will play in the semifinal game Monday night with a 7:30pm tip-off vs. Memphis.