The flurry of off-season signings for the Portland Trail Blazers—plus a huge dose of summer hype for youth guard Anfernee Simons—has left forward Zach Collins flying under the radar for the moment. Collins was last year’s Player of Promise in Portland. He responded with 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game over 77 appearances. Those numbers represented a modest, but significant, improvement from his rookie year. Add in an impressive .473 shooting average from the floor, Collins’ second season could easily be termed a success.
D.J. Foster of The Ringer posits that Collins has even more ceiling to grow into. Today he named Collins among five NBA players poised for a significant breakthrough in the coming campaign.
Foster cites Collins’ series-turning performance in the second round of the 2019 NBA playoffs as Portland faced elimination at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, then lists the forward’s best attributes:
Despite being only 21, the breakout felt like a long time coming for Collins, the 10th pick of the 2017 draft. Collins had shown all the tools to be an effective rim runner and shot blocker as a rookie—good end-to-end speed, soft hands, the ability to track the ball—and, in his rookie season, he even registered the best defensive field goal percentage allowed at the rim (47 percent) of any player who appeared in at least 40 games.
He claims that Portland’s shifting lineup this season may provide more opportunity for Collins to shine:
With Aminu (Magic), Harkless (Clippers), Leonard (Heat), Kanter (Celtics), and Evan Turner (Hawks) gone, and Nurkic still recovering from injury until somewhere around February, Collins is now the longest-tenured member of Portland’s frontcourt and the player most familiar with the idiosyncrasies of Stotts’s offense. There’s a higher skill level present, especially on the block, than Collins has been allowed to fully exhibit yet.
Foster has more on Collins, plus OG Anunoby, Harry Giles, and other breakout candidates.
What say you? Do you think Collins or Simons is more likely to prove pivotal to Portland’s chances this season?