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Wasserman: Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan Could Use G-League to Develop

Bleacher Report’s draft expert sees the two Portland first-rounders in need of action in the developmental league.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers rookies Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan have seen some run in the big leagues—both registering a start already—but the season hasn’t been the most kind to either. Swanigan switched off nights of light-to-medium minutes and DNPs in the beginning of the season to now frequenting the inactive designation. Collins was on a dose of garbage-time minutes and DNPs until December, where he’s now one of the first players off the bench.

Whatever momentum Swanigan had in the beginning of the season has now cooled off completely as he watches in a suit. And while Collins has gotten the minutes, he still looks every bit of the rookie he is. That’s why Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report highlights the Blazers rookies as being in need of G-League seasoning.

First with Collins:

G-League goals: Sharpen skills, strengthen body, learn the NBA whistle

The Portland Trail Blazers have started giving Zach Collins some run, but he'd be better off developing in the G-League. He isn't physically or intellectually ready to defend or execute offensively against NBA centers.


With a basic jump hook (25.0 percent on post-ups) and once-in-a-while shooting touch (28.6 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers), Collins isn't advanced enough offensively and doesn't have the athleticism to compensate. He's totaled 42 points on 34.1 percent on the season, and after averaging 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes at Gonzaga, he's averaging 6.1 fouls per 36 in Portland.

It's worth questioning whether Collins would have benefited from being drafted by one of the 28 teams that have a direct G-League affiliate.

And for Swanigan:

G-League goals: Add shooting, keep up conditioning

Injuries to others allowed him to play 10.8 minutes per game in October, but he only shot 25.0 percent in that span. With Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Jusuf Nurkic, Ed Davis and Zach Collins ahead on the depth chart, there isn't much of an opening for Swanigan to get back into the rotation.

A poor athlete, undersized for an inside big man, he needs to continue developing his shooting to serve a larger purpose, particularly given his defensive limitations. He hasn't made a three since opening night, and his rebounding alone isn't valuable enough.

Other players Wasserman looks at includes Malik Monk, Thon Maker, and Jahlil Okafor.

This evaluation of Collins comes just one day after Wasserman gave him a D in his first-round pick grades (Swanigan didn’t play enough to qualify).

Peter Sampson here at Blazer’s Edge recently looked at the promise of Collins, advocating for more minutes for the former Gonzaga big man:

Though it would be foolish to declare him either a bust or a future stud, we do have a better idea of what he is: a player that makes occasional stellar plays on the defensive end, grab rebounds at a decent rate, but plays inconsistently on the offensive end. He’s not a key contributor yet, but he’s already taken a step since the first month of the season. That’s a great sign for a project seven footer.

And Ryne Buchanan here at Blazer’s Edge recently looked at three potential G-League locations for the Blazers, who currently lack a direct affiliate and have stated interest in a developmental team close to Portland. Two-way player Wade Baldwin is currently playing for the G-League Texas Legends based out of Frisco, Texas, approximtately 2,000 miles from Portland.

Do you think Collins and Swanigan should play in the G-League, no matter how far away? Or would you prefer them to stay in the NBA and grow their bonds in the locker room, maybe getting playing time along the way?