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Portland Trail Blazers 2017 NBA Draft Grades

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What did national pundits think of the performance of Neil Olshey and the Trail Blazers? We run it down.

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NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Every bit of information coming out of Portland Trail Blazers headquarters on Thursday night indicated that they were happy with their performance in the 2017 NBA Draft, which netted them Gonzaga forward Zach Collins and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan. Were national pundits similarly pleased? Here’s a rundown of reactions from across the media landscape.

Sam Vecenie - Sporting News

Zach Collins - Grade: A

This is an extremely savvy move from a Portland front office who understands what its needs are. Collins is a mobile, highly skilled player who will fit perfectly in Terry Stotts’ offense that involves the center heavily both in handoffs and in high-post plays. If Collins put some weight on his frame and continues developing as a rim protector, watch out.

Caleb Swanigan – Grade: B

The Blazers pick Swanigan here, a killer rebounder that also has a ton of skill for passing and shooting the basketball. The key is going to be defense. If he can get into good enough shape to defend the perimeter and play the 4, this makes a lot of sense. If he can’t and is stuck at the 5, well, the Blazers have Jusuf Nurkic and just took Zach Collins. But he’s an NBA rotation player, in all likelihood.

Jeremy Woo - Sports Illustrated

Collins – Grade: A

There’s plenty of reason to be high on him, despite his limited playing time as a freshman, and teams believe he can become a strong jump shooter and rim protector at the next level. The Blazers will hope he’s the solution in the middle to compliment Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum sooner rather than later. It’s a shrewd move by GM Neil Olshey

Swanigan – Grade B

The Blazers add another intriguing piece to their frontcourt in Swanigan, who has one of the best stories in the draft and brings a lot of skill toughness to the next level. He’s undersized and may struggle defensively due to slow feet, but he’s a great passer and rebounder who plays bigger than his size. This is a bit of a gamble, but a worthwhile one for Portland. He could be a unique player if he finds a way to stay on the floor

Joe Kaiser - ESPN


Zach Collins shined in the NCAA tournament with Gonzaga as an active and versatile big man, and the result is being selected 10th overall. He is expected to be traded from Sacramento to Portland, where he has a chance to make an immediate impact playing alongside Jusuf Nurkic in the Trail Blazers' overhauled frontcourt. Collins is a fantasy sleeper in this rookie class who can contribute immediately as a scorer, rebounder and shot blocker.


It's hard to look at Caleb Swanigan without thinking of former lottery pick Ike Diogu, but the rugged 6-foot-8 big man gives Portland a second rookie power forward. He will have to beat out Zach Collins to have any fantasy value next season, and his style of play may make it tough for him to stay on the court against the floor spacing teams out West.

Jonathan Tjarks - The Ringer

Collins - Value: A/Fit: B

There was never much chance the Blazers would use all three of their first-round picks, so they packaged no. 15 and no. 20 to move up and grab their man, Collins. The Gonzaga big man never started a game in college, but his combination of size, skill, and athleticism shot him up mock drafts over the course of the season. However, while Collins has the speed and shooting ability to potentially share a frontcourt with Jusuf Nurkic, playing two 7-footers together in the modern NBA isn’t easy, and he may end up coming off the bench for a team that regularly played four perimeter players at the same time over the last few seasons.

Swanigan - Value: B/Fit: C

Portland is loading up on big men in this draft, grabbing Swanigan at the end of the first round after taking Collins in the lottery. Swanigan was one of the best players in the country this season, and he has uncommon ability to shoot 3s and rebound at a high level. That could allow him to stick in the NBA. The problem is that he’s really slow, and he will almost certainly have to play as a center, which is an issue on a Blazers team that has at least four other guys fighting for minutes at the position.

Reid Forgrave & Jack Maloney - CBS Sports

Collins - Grade: B+

Final pick of top tier of draft. Can do everything as a big man. Always solid, sometimes great.

Swanigan - Grade: A

Inspiring story, and an inspired basketball player. Elite rebounder in college, knows role in NBA.

Benjamin Hoffman & Marc Tracy - New York Times -


In Portland he would join Jusuf Nurkic in trying to balance out a team that had been dramatically guard-heavy until Nurkic’s arrival mid-season. Measured at a true 7 feet in shoes, Collins is the first one-and-done player in Gonzaga history. He’ll have to rely on scouts to sing his praises, since he didn’t start for the Bulldogs and played just 17.3 minutes a game, thus limiting his ability to put up eye-popping statistics...

Collins was not a super-major part of the Bulldogs team that made it to the championship game, and was an even smaller part of the game itself, where they lost to North Carolina, 71-65. The problem? Too many fouls! He fouled out in just 19 minutes of play in the championship game! I would continue to worry, as Collins will be lanky compared to the average N.B.A. big man. But if you are an N.B.A. team and you want a big guy who can stretch the floor — which is to say, if you are any N.B.A. team — then Collins is the prototype of what you’re looking for.


Not an eye-popping athlete, Swanigan turns the ball over too much, but he rebounds, he passes, he shoots well for a player his size and he makes free-throws. The result of all of that was a sophomore season in which he averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds a game.

How he fits: Portland already added front court help in Zach Collins, but in a nod to that being the team’s biggest weakness, they also used a first rounder on Swanigan, who is all results and very little flash, but should fit in with Collins and Jusuf Nurkic well.

Adi Joseph - USA Today -

Collins - Grade: B

The Blazers, who entered the draft with three picks, made that deal to take Collins, widely viewed as the best center prospect in this class. Collins has potential 3-point shooting range and is an elite shot-blocker, which makes him very exciting, but the fit is curious for a team that already has a starting center in Jusuf Nurkic. Neither Collins nor Nurkic would appear ideal to guard small-ball power forwards, and the Blazers' bigger needs appeared to be on the perimeter — Donovan Mitchell or OG Anunoby would have been good fits. Still, Collins' potential is enormous.

Swanigan - Grade: B+

A year ago, Swanigan had major, major holes. He wasn't a good enough athlete, didn't have a well-rounded offensive game, played an outdated style. Now he's lost weight and added skills that he never had in the past, and that's what makes him such an intriguing player. Yes, he's short at under 6-9, but he has a huge wingspan. His shooting ability combined with his remarkable stretch mean he'll find a role on offense. Defense is a bigger question mark. Unlike Collins, he's a very different big man from what the Blazers already have, which is a positive, even if his upside is limited and the frontcourt is crowded.

Tim Bontemps - Washington Post


He didn’t play a ton of minutes for the Bulldogs this season, swapping in and out with Przemek Karnowski, but showed the kind of mobility that teams are looking for these days in big men, which earned him some Cody Zeller comparisons for reasons beyond also being a white 7-footer.

What he brings: No other player in this draft helped himself during the NCAA tournament as much as Collins did. The 7-foot freshman converted 64 percent of his twos during the Bulldogs’ March Madness run, and what is fascinating about Collins’ game is the ease with which he scored under duress. The big grabbed 12 percent of Gonzaga’s misses, which led the squad, and per, he scored 84 percent of those putbacks.


The fit here is a bit odd, given that Portland already has Jusuf Nurkic and traded up for Collins, but General Manager Neil Olshey apparently decided Swanigan’s talent was too irresistible to pass up here...

He overpowered college bigs with his brute lower body strength, but that won’t happen in NBA, so unless he undergoes the requisite leap, he will have to be hidden on that side of the ball.