Zach Collins, Trail Blazers first-round rookie, struggled to adjust to the physicality of NBA Summer League play in limited action last week before succumbing to injury, exiting the tournament after three appearances. With that kind of debut, negative evaluations were certain to follow. In a tournament where 85 percent of participants hope to catch the eye of a pro organization, players with pre-signed, million-dollar contracts are supposed to shine. If they don’t, words fly.
Following Collins’ underwhelming performance, Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders took a second look at the former Gonzaga big man's decision to leave college after one season.
Rhodes outlined the problems with Collins' decision to make the leap to the NBA.
More and more, younger players are rushing to leave school early for the NBA and, quite often, they look out of place when they get there. Not having fully developed their respective games, players like this often find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer difference in competition between the NCAA and the NBA, and Collins is no exception.
Even in limited Summer League action, Collins looked serviceable on the defensive side of the ball. After acknowledging the rookie's ability to protect the rim, Rhodes explained that more pressing problems could be on the horizon.
On the defensive end, Collins has shown some flashes. Averaging two blocks and two steals per game, he has the makings of, at the very least, a capable defender at the next level. However, Collins isn’t the most disciplined defender and can often get himself into trouble by being overly aggressive and falling for shot fakes. At Gonzaga he often found himself in foul trouble — Collins averaged 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes — and if he is unable to stay on the floor at the next level it won’t matter how good of a defender he is. His size could also be a problem here as well; if Collins doesn’t put on weight he’ll be pushed around by more physical bigs near the basket and will find it hard to make a real impact at the center position.
Rhodes summed up his assessment by lamenting the point that another year at Gonzaga with a prominent role would have significantly helped Collins' NBA-readiness.
While Collins certainly has the makings of a high-caliber NBA player, another year or two with Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs would have allowed him more time to round out his game and develop physically... [T]he polish, experience and physical growth it would have added to Collins’ game would have made the rough transition he is currently going through that much easier for him.
Playing in his hometown, Collins has gotten off to a slow start. He shot just 4-of-20 from the ﬁeld in his ﬁrst two games, and a bounceback effort Tuesday (four points and four rebounds in 11 minutes) was cut short by a quadriceps contusion.
Like Rhodes, Pelton noted Collins’ rim-protection potential, citing six blocked shots recorded during the tournament.
Collins averaged 6.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 2.0 blocks in 23.3 minutes per game for the Blazers during Summer League. He shot 26.1% from the field, appearing in three contests total.