Height: 6'9" (ish)
Weight: 253 (ish) lbs
Years Exp.: 5
Games Played: 74
--If I were Zach I'd be riding around town in my luxury car of choice with a license plate that read NOZ4DBL. His biggest strength has always been his uncanny sense of where the ball is going to be on offense. What he does on the offensive boards with opponents all around him is like magic. He gets tunnel vision and nobody is going to stop him from scoring.
--Zach is a weapon from anywhere on the court. Post moves? Check. Face-up jumper? Out to 20+ baby. Take a bigger man off the dribble? Would you like one spin or two? He's not quite in Dirk Nowitzki land, but he's hanging around the borders. Right now he's the only pedigreed, bona fide scorer the Blazers have. Nobody else puts the pressure on the opposing defense like he does. Not surprisingly he's also the only guy that commands a consistent double team.
--Zach knows how to use his body. He has very good upper body strength and can't usually be bumped out of post position or shanghaied on the way to the hoop. He also has a deceptively quick first step for a guy his size.
--He gutted out his recovery last year and didn't miss all that many games.
--He does all this while being undersized for his position. Despite everything else that goes on there is some mental toughness there.
--Zach is mediocre in areas he doesn't need to be, because they make no logical sense. He's a so-so defensive rebounder despite shining on the offensive end. He's relatively poor at shooting free throws for having the kind of range he does.
--His field goal percentage is pretty bad for a top flight power forward.
--Zach is a non-factor on defense. He's not Kiki Vandeweghe horrible, but he doesn't scare anyone. He's not built for steals or blocks and he seems to lose interest when the ball isn't in his hands (which it never is on defense). For a guy who uses his body like an impresario on offense, he lets an awful lot of people go around and through him. His help defense is simply non-existent. He's the anti-Przy that way.
--He sets poor picks and really runs most offensive sets poorly unless and until he's getting the ball.
--His passing is inconsistent. It's hard to tell whether he doesn't see cutters or whether he just thinks he has a better chance of scoring against the double team than they do on the move. Either way the ball seldom leaves his hands unless it's towards the rim.
--He has fluctuating conditioning issues. This might be part of why he doesn't hustle down the floor.
If I were playing against Zach I would have to respect what he means to the team. The Blazers were 13-16 when he scored 20 or more last year. That doesn't seem like a great record but when you consider they only won 21 games total it's significant. By comparison they were 3-13 when he scored 12 or fewer. The strategy is simple: If he catches it in the post wait two seconds and then throw a double team. It'll take him longer than that to make up his mind what he's doing and then when he gets pressured he's likely to go on his own no matter who's standing there. Also double team immediately if he dribbles because once he puts the ball on the floor he's not giving it up (unless it's a total bail out pass). If he's firing from the outside I try to get a hand in his face but otherwise let him go. He'll hit a few, but rare is the game where he'll beat you single-handedly from out there. I make sure his defender knows to box out but otherwise I don't really worry about him anywhere else on the court. Another strategy would be to have the guy he's defending run like heck in transition because Zach is unlikely to follow him down the court for an entire game. Eventually you're going to get 2-on-1 breaks that way.
If I'm Portland I just let Zach do what he's best at and try to compensate for the rest. He's not changing at this point. I wish he'd become the garbage man he was when he was working his way up but he's not having that. He's earned his spot, he's going to keep it. Still, you've got to run most of the sets through him as long as he's on the floor because he's your money guy. He should be the first option on any critical play. I'd try to make it easier on him by running cutters when he has the ball, keeping the motion going and not letting the defense set on him. If he hits some of those cutters with passes all the better, but at least he won't have two guys consistently planted in front of him bothering his shot.
We haven't talked about Zach's attitude yet. All the past stuff is well chronicled and there's nothing new to say about it. We all know the score. However, it is time for us to come to grips with one fact that's becoming less and less deniable as time goes on: Zach does not want to be here. You do not come late to your first game of the year (even if it is pre-season) if you have any of the motivation or leaf-turning intention that's been attributed to him. It's becoming more obvious with each incident. And that probably means that even if Zach has another gear we're never going to see it on a consistent basis. It's time for both the fans and the organization to come to grips with this. He won't tank games but he won't particularly put out for you either. He'll just shoot a lot, compile his stats, and keep trying to force a trade with his thinly-veiled insubordination within the organization and his "I do what I want" attitude out in the community.
P.S. Again, don't forget to listen to the pre-season podcast when you get the time. We want Ryan to get lots of hits, both to reward him for his excellent taste in guests and so he'll continue the project through the season (and maybe have interest in more Blazer-related content).