The Portland Trail Blazers will not tender a qualifying offer to free agent forward Zach Collins, making him an unrestricted free agent in the upcoming off-season. The move effectively severs ties between Portland and the player they selected 10th in the 2017 NBA Draft. Collins will now be free to negotiate a deal with any NBA team, including the Blazers.
The pending restricted free agent spoke to The Athletic’s Jason Quick [subscription required] detailing the disappointment of his third foot surgery on June 29 and his ambition to get his body right and another NBA contract this August.
Collins’ disastrous two-year stretch was dealt a heavy blow when he was told he’d once again fractured his left foot and would require surgery.
Collins admitted to Quick that after playing only 11 games over the past two seasons, he knows the offers might not be as lucrative as he had originally hoped.
“Obviously with me being a free agent, it makes it tough,” Collins said. “But I’m less concerned about what type of deal I’m going to get, or how many years it’s going to be, or who I’m going to play for … I’m more focused on this rehab and getting this ankle right.”
He spoke about the moment he was told about the new fracture.
“I just sat there in silence,” Collins said. “I put my head in my hands. I didn’t cry or anything, and I didn’t throw anything, although I thought I was going to. I just sat there. I was very sad and upset and unsure about my future in the NBA. I just sat there for about half an hour and thought about it.”
Quick highlights Collins’ optimism about a new contract. The forward has not given up on the Trail Blazers.
“I love Portland,” Collins said. “I’ve always said I love Portland and it would be great to come back and show what I can do.”
Collins’ agent Mark Bartlestein echoed the belief that he will return to the NBA next season thanks to his unique skillset. But he also acknowledged the Blazers’ current cap situation and the potential constraints in bringing Collins back.
“There’s no question he is going to get a deal; he’s an incredible talent,” Bartelstein said. “NBA teams are looking for guys who can protect the rim, switch everything on defense and make 3s. Zach is really a unicorn.”
“Neil and I talk all the time and we will do what we always do — sit and talk and see if something makes sense,” Bartelstein said. “But they are in a tough spot. They are up against the luxury tax, and there’s a sense of urgency to win now … so there’s a lot to balance. But I know Neil believes deeply in Zach. They know he is going to be good.”
The Blazers traded two first-round picks to the Sacramento Kings to move up and select Collins in 2017.
The 23-year-old forward/center has averaged 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game, appearing in 154 regular-season contests and 20 playoffs games for the Blazers in his three-year career.
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