The Portland Trail Blazers will not negotiate a contract extension with Zach Collins this season. Instead, the fourth-year forward will enter restricted free agency at the end of the year. Jason Quick of The Athletic tweeted the news.
The Trail Blazers will not pursue a contract extension for Zach Collins, a source tells @TheAthleticNBA. The fourth-year big man will become a restricted free agent after this season.— Jason Quick (@jwquick) December 19, 2020
The Blazers selected Collins 10th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft after he spent a year at Gonzaga University. Portland prized his potential, the promise of an all-around game, and his defensive ability.
Collins appeared in 66 games in his rookie season, 77 during his second year. He seemed poised for a third-year leap, starting the first 3 games of the 2019-20 campaign, but a shoulder injury, and resulting surgery, took him out for most of the season. Collins rejoined the Blazers in the Orlando bubble last summer, starting 8 more games, but he injured his ankle and still has not returned to the floor.
The 6’11 forward carries career averages of 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game on 44.4% shooting, 32.4% from the field in 26.4 minutes.
Restricted free agency will allow Collins to seek offers from other teams. If he signs one, the Blazers would have the right to match the deal and retain him. If they decided against doing so, Collins would depart to the team he signed with. Portland could also make him a new offer in the summer or Collins could decline to sign any offer, instead playing out the 2021-22 season for $7.4 million, then becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022.
Obviously negotiating an extension before Collins hit restricted free agency would have indicated Portland’s desire to keep him, but failing to do so does not necessarily indicate the opposite. Collins came into the league with the “potential” label firmly affixed. Despite showing decent defensive chops, he has not yet turned variables into solid numbers. Injuries have prevented progress; they’ve also added another unknown to the equation.
The Blazers could be waiting to see if Collins recovers physically. They could also be waiting for him to establish himself firmly in their new, deeper rotation before deciding to pay him long-term. Just as likely, they’re allowing the market to establish a price for him amid all the uncertainty, knowing they can match it.
Letting Collins enter restricted free agency implies that the Blazers would be willing to let him go if another team makes an outlandish offer. Given the question marks surrounding him, they probably won’t have to deal with that issue. Instead they’ll get to make a financial decision based on his worth as an actual player rather than his, and their, estimation of what he could become.
Collins’ agent, Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype that he’s optimistic the Blazers and Collins can come to an agreement despite the uncertainty.
“Neil and I have talked quite a bit about Zach, and there’s no question how strongly the Blazers feel about him,” agent Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports told HoopsHype. “We both feel that an extension probably just doesn’t make sense at this time based on Zach not having a chance to play as much last year due to his injuries. Everyone’s focus right now is on getting Zach back to full health and having a terrific season, and then Neil and I will sit down and get to work on a contract this summer.”