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Zach Collins’ Future Looms Large for the Blazers

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The Athletic’s Danny Leroux touched on the path the Trail Blazers find themselves on with Zach Collins.

Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers exchanged the No. 15 and No. 20 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft with the Kings in order to select Gonzaga big man Zach Collins. Three seasons later, Neil Olshey is on the cusp of facing serious decisions in regards to 22 year old’s future in Portland. Collins, who faced injuries that limited his 2019-20 season to just 11 games, is entering the final year of his rookie deal.

The Athletic’s Danny Leroux focused on Collins’ future with the Blazers in his recent in-depth look at Portland’s salary cap situation. Citing the former Gonzaga standout’s lack of run in the starting lineup, Leroux acknowledged that the Blazers have their work cut out for them.

In another world, Olshey had a year to evaluate Collins’ fit next to Nurkic as well as his potential to be the center of the future, but that all went out the window over the last year-plus. Instead, both sides face a challenging negotiation due to risk. Collins will balance the optimism that a successful fourth season could drive a big offer sheet in restricted free agency in an offseason where far more teams have cap space. He also understands that another injury-plagued season could tank his next contract even further. Meanwhile, Olshey has to weigh locking in another significant contract with the possibility that Collins’ price tag is far higher next summer.

Outside of the long-term implications, Leroux also touched on how Collins’ status could directly impact Portland’s flexibility in the 2021 offseason. As a potential restricted free agent selected in the top half of the first round, Collins would carry a hefty cap hold without an extension in place.

Another factor to consider is that Collins’ 2021 cap hold without an extension agreement is $16.2 million, which is about solid starter money in the current league landscape. However, there is an argument that number does not matter much because Lillard’s extension kicks in that year and bumps his salary up more than $10 million, making it hard for the Blazers to use cap space unless they clear the decks almost completely. With all that in mind, Olshey is probably better off waiting to see how the 2020-21 season goes unless Collins is willing to take a serious discount for security.

Through three seasons in the NBA, Collins has appeared in 154 regular season games (12 starts). Last season, in limited action, the Nevada native posted 7.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Inside the bubble, Collins suffered a left ankle Malleolar stress reaction, an injury that forced him out of the remainder of the Blazers’ first-round series against the Lakers.

You can read Leroux’s full Blazers-centric breakdown at The Athletic (subscription required).