INDIANAPOLIS – Through six games of the season much has been talked about Zach Collins’ defensive prowess, but there was something different about Collins in Monday night’s win over the Pacers – he didn’t pick up his first foul until just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter and in a night when the Trail Blazers battled foul trouble from the get-go, Collins was personally happy to finally not be the big man heading to the bench.
"It felt great. I kept looking up at the stats to see how many fouls I had…it was huge for me. I’ve been harping to myself and that kind of stuff and I gotta find a balance to not stopping to go after everything but also I got to stop fouling," Collins said with a big smile.
Collins is for real on the defensive end and nobody knows that more than Damian Lillard:
“It was just like play after play after play where I was just like ‘This dude could be defensive player of the year’ like if our team has a good enough year…I ended up making first team All-NBA because of our team’s success was and I think this is a similar situation for him as far as that. Just because you know he’s blocking shots and deflecting passes and rebounding the ball the way he’s doing it, I think he has potential to be defensive player of the year.”
"This year?" Joe Freeman of the Oregonian asked Lillard.
"You gotta earn stripes to be considered. Like Rudy Gobert who was doing these types of things but he had to wait his time, potentially I see Zach going in that direction."
Lillard also feels that since he has been in Portland there hasn’t been a defensive players like Collins.
“It’s something that we haven’t had since I’ve been here. The level that I see him doing it at, at such a young age, we just haven’t had it,” Lillard said.
There is one comparison that Lillard did make when thinking about Collins’ game to former Trail Blazer players.
“It’s kind of like Robin Lopez with how low maintenance he is… He’s not coming up to us and ‘give me the ball right here’… How low maintenance he is and how active and present he is on the defensive end is impressive,“ Lillard said.
For all the defensive praise Collins has been getting this season, it is his offense that has really turned the corner compared to his rookie season especially in these last two contests. Collins scored 17 points against the Pacers, which ties his career high, which he just set two games ago vs. Orlando.
But for Collins, he credits his teammates for his scoring success as of late.
“I mean, I’m getting easy buckets in the lane with guys like Nik, and Evan, and Seth in that second unit, they’re such good playmakers it’s easy to get buckets out there with them,” Collins said.
Collins feels like he's coming into his own and becoming more comfortable this season. "Yeah (I'm feeling more comfortable). I think going through and having a year under my belt to learn and get better helped a lot."
There's no doubt that the development of Zach Collins is a key component to the future of this Trail Blazer franchise. Something to keep in mind, it took Gobert four seasons in the league before he earned “his stripes” and took home the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Collins is on his way.
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