The Portland Trail Blazers are banking on big things from second-year big man Zach Collins this season. Collins arrived in Rip City in the 2017 NBA Draft via a trade with the Sacramento Kings. The Blazers shipped picks Nos. 15 and 20 to Sacramento in exchange for the rights to Collins. The Kings used those two picks to select North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Duke’s Harry Giles.
Second guessing a trade that involves players in the early stages of their careers is risky, but the positive buzz surrounding a now-healthy Giles is likely to fuel speculation this season. Today, Blazer’s Edge contributors Brian Freeman and Steve Dewald exchang their thoughts on Collins vs. Giles. Who would have been the better selection?
Re-evaluating the trade between the Blazers and Kings really boils down to your feelings towards Giles’ upside. Do you buy into the hype that he is a contender for Rookie of the Year honors? Or, does his injury history represent a bridge too far?
Steve: Giles has had major surgery on both of his knees. He underwent ACL and MCL surgery on his left knee, and later went under the knife to repair an ACL tear in his right knee. The combination of those injuries limited him to just 300 minutes of action at Duke, and resulted in him missing the entire 2017-18 NBA season.
Once you look past all of that, there is still a lot to like about Giles’ potential. He was billed as a rim-running big man out of high school, but he showcased his re-tooled jump shot at Las Vegas Summer League earlier in the year. If Giles reclaims the majority of his old athleticism, and adds a jump shot—he will blossom into a premier NBA big man.
That “if” surrounding Giles’ health is massive. Compounding his injury history is the presence of Marvin Bagley III in Sacramento’s frontcourt. If voters look to the Kings for a ROY candidate, my money is on Bagley.
Brian: I was impressed watching Giles in summer league and he looks to have carried over his success to the preseason. But transferring that to the NBA regular season is a completely different animal. Giles could be a useful rotation big this year, but I can say with confidence that he wont have near the impact on the floor that Bagley will. As much as I do like Giles’ upside, he remains a wild card, both in terms of health and on court production— a combination that makes me uneasy.
After balancing your feelings towards Giles with your expectations for Collins, how do you feel about the trade the Blazers made with the Kings? Is Portland out in front?
Brian: I am operating under the assumption that if Portland kept the picks, that they would have ended up with Jackson and Giles. This is a different conversation if Portland could turn back time and select any combination of Jarrett Allen, John Collins, Kyle Kuzma, or OG Anunoby with those two picks.
I came into the draft high on Justin Jackson. He is a forgotten part of the trade (because everyone is forgotten as soon as they go to Sacramento), but he quietly had a solid rookie year. Here is the statistical breakdown between Collins and Jackson via Basketball-reference.com
Keep in mind that Collins played on the three seed in the West; Jackson played on a 27-win team. That matters. It’s also important to note that Jackson is two and a half years older than Collins. But the production in their rookie years is comparable. Collins was the better defender, Jackson the more effective on the offensive side of the ball. I still suspect that Collins winds up the best player of the three involved in the deal, but the margins between them are slim, especially considering Giles holds the most upside. I don’t think either team takes the deal back at this point.
Steve: Until I see Giles play an entire NBA season, I still feel like the Blazers have the advantage. Giles might possess a more highlight-worthy set of skills, but Portland is already expecting Collins to contribute on a playoff team (the Blazers’ limited roster flexibility also plays a part).
I could be swayed slightly the other way if Jackson had played better as a rookie. The Kings have played Bagley out of position at small forward in the preseason, which is a indicator of how Jackson has struggled to carve out a role heading into his second year.
For now, Donovan Mitchell is the primary image I see when I put on my hindsight googles.
Do you agree with Brian and Steve? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.