The silence surrounding Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins’ shoulder injury took a temporary break prior to Saturday’s loss to the 76ers. According to the reports, the former Gonzaga standout will undergo surgery to repair his dislocated left shoulder. As of now, a timetable for his recovery has not been announced. Kevin Love, who suffered a similar dislocation that required surgery in the 2015 postseason, received a four to six month recovery prognosis.
Jusuf Nurkic’s absence is compounded by Pau Gasol’s lingering ankle ailment and Hassan Whiteside’s series of relatively minor injuries. With Collins facing a potentially lengthy rehabilitation, will the Blazers explore adding a post player to their roster? If so, what options will Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey have to choose from?
Before getting to the list, these are the factors that were considered:
- Skal Labissière has proven he is capable of handling backup center duties through the early portion of the season. If that is the viewpoint from the Blazers, a new signing will likely have to have experience playing at both post positions.
- The Blazers are onboard with paying the tax penalty of signing another player.
- Sticking with coach Terry Stotts track record of judicious use of rookies, both Moses Brown and Jaylen Hoard will spend the majority of the year in the G League.
- Any incoming player would have to acknowledge that playing time could fluctuate as the availability of the current roster shifts (cough, cough, sorry Faried).
Dante Cunningham | SF/PF | 6’8” | Age: 32
The former Blazers draft pick is still available following his 64-game (21 starts) stint with the Spurs last season. Cunningham set a new career-high from beyond the arc in the 2018-19 season by connecting on 46.2 percent of his attempts. In the past two seasons, the former Villanova standout has spent time at both forward spots and played spot duty at center during his time with the Nets in 2017-18. His experience, positional versatility, and floor spacing make him a logical fit with the Blazers.
On Sunday, Blazer’s Edge spoke with Cunningham’s agent in regards to his availability. Joel Bell, of Bell Management International, informed Blazer’s Edge that the veteran forward is currently living in Portland and training hard in hopes of returning to the NBA.
Ray Spalding | PF | 6’9” | Age: 22
Spalding was among the Rockets’ final cuts prior to the 2019-20 season. The former Louisville forward is now in camp with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the G League, but his rebounding chops could lead to a quick return to the NBA.
Buoyed by his work in the margins, Spalding spent time with Mavericks and Suns last season. Along with his time in the NBA, the Kentucky native averaged 15.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in 29 appearances with the G League’s Texas Legends.
Spalding is far from the flashiest option, but the Blazers are familiar with his skillset. In the lead up to the 2018 NBA Draft, Spalding was among the players that worked out in Portland.
Joakim Noah | C | 6’11” | Age: 34
Last week, Blazer’s Edge contributor Eric Griffith laid out a compelling case for Noah’s potential fit in Portland.
Noah is my personal choice. He’s not the all-star he used to be, but he was serviceable with the Grizzlies last year and certainly has the know-how to play perimeter defense, even if his physical gifts have waned. He averaged a respectable 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 42 appearances for Memphis last year. Noah also shot 70 percent from the line, usually a good indicator that he’s held onto at least a teensy bit of his mid-range ability from his Bulls days.
With Collins potentially prolonged absence, it is even tougher to argue with the points that Griffith highlighted.