The Portland Trail Blazers are off to a 6-2 start this season. Damian Lillard has played a huge role in their winning record, but eyes are also drifting towards the Blazers bench unit, in particular second-year center Zach Collins. Playing 21 minutes per game, Collins is producing nearly 11 points and 2 blocks while anchoring Portland’s defensive attack. In a column yesterday, Michael Pina of Vice Sports credited Collins’ work while marveling at the improvement of Portland’s reserve unit.
Last season, the Blazers outscored opponents by 1.3 points per 100 possessions when those two sat, but their offense was atrocious. The offense was even worse two years ago, when they were outscored by 5.8 points per 100 possessions. So far—especially before Moe Harkless’s ailing knee persuaded Terry Stotts to insert Caleb Swanigan into the rotation—they’ve been a nightly fireworks display, in no small part because Zach Collins may already be the best backup center in the league.
Pina doesn’t finish there, as his praise for Collins becomes effusive:
After a rookie year that was only aesthetically pleasing when observed with the long-term in mind, Collins has been a revelation on both ends. He’s knocking down threes, beasting switches in the post, and, with old partner Ed Davis no longer around, anchoring a defense as best he can with some stout paint protection. (As of Tuesday, Collins’s rim protection numbers were the exact same as Giannis Antetokounmpo’s—at some of the better marks in the league.)
Pina also name-drops Portland’s other key bench players. His column is extensive, covering a dozen different topics from around the NBA. You’ll need to scroll deeply to find the Blazers’ bench section, but hey...they’re there!