Zach Collins’ improvement in his second year has been a significant part of the Trail Blazers hot start to the season. It’s earned him praise from Damian Lillard and Terry Stotts, and national NBA writers are starting to notice. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer praised Collins in a recent article evaluating the improvement (or lack of improvement) of NBA sophomores. O’Connor was especially impressed with Collins’ defensive positioning and quickness:
Damian Lillard said recently that Collins has Defensive Player of the Year potential, and the path is there for him, especially if defensive analytics improve in the public forum. Collins can block shots, but his game is more predicated on positioning—like past winners Joakim Noah and Marc Gasol. Maybe we will enter an age where advanced analytics can grade the process (shot alterations, shots prevented) rather than solely relying on results-based stats like blocks and steals.
One area that O’Connor says Collins needs to improve is his tendency to foul. Collins averages 3 fouls per game despite playing only 21.4 minutes, putting him at 5.1 fouls per 36 minutes. O’Connor suggests that if Collins continues to improve he could be moved to the starting lineup as early as this season:
If Collins improves his discipline to match his fundamentals by the end of the season, he could start and finish over center Jusuf Nurkic, who logs 24.9 minutes per game. While Nurkic is a stronger rebounder and interior scorer, Collins can defend the perimeter, protect the rim, and shoot 3s—all more valuable skills for today’s pace-and-space style. It’s only a matter of time until Collins, despite his youth, becomes the primary enforcer Portland needs.
Check out the article here to see O’Connor’s full analysis of Collins as well as fellow sophomores De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, OG Anunoby, Malik Monk, Jarrett Allen, Josh Jackson, Markelle Fultz, and Donovan Mitchell.