The Portland Trail Blazers have come out of the 2017 NBA Draft securing the services of longtime coveted big man Zach Collins with the #10 pick, and Caleb Swanigan with the #26 pick. Originally entering the draft with three first round picks, they traded their #15 and #20 picks with the Sacramento Kings, for the #10 pick, which eventually became Collins.
2017 NBA Draft – A Smart Gamble for Portland
Entering the draft, the Blazers’ main goal was to add a big man. Portland’s roster ranked second last in frontcourt scoring last season. Instead of picking two players they weren’t too happy with, by surrendering both picks, they managed to obtain a high enough pick in turn to draft one of the most skilled big men in the class. Collins is an echelon higher than other big men that the Blazers may have been forced into taking had the trade not taken place.
The franchise had expressed deep interest in him from a while ago, and was even prepared to draft him at #7, had a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves worked out enabling them to take the Timberwolves’ pick. Whether or not Zach Collins ever reaches his full potential is another question to consider, but credit is due to Neil Olshey, the general manager, for pulling the right strings to sign the player he most wanted.
Zach Collins: Raw and Talented
Collins may not be streaks ahead of other power forwards and centers, but it is his high ceiling and large potential that made him such a worthy pick in the draft. Moreover, in this new era of ball-handling, shooting and ‘perimeter’ type centers, Collins fits well into matching those criteria. He’s less of an old-school, bully-in-the-paint type, and more of a big man with a smooth touch; an archetype heavily coveted in today’s NBA.
Young players tend to be more one-sided with their skillset. However, not all show signs of being capable on both ends of the floor. Collins has already begun showing signs of being a deadly scorer in the frontcourt – something the Blazers need badly – and using his height to defend the rim with power defensively.
He’s already developed a sweet shooting stroke, with field goal percentages and 3PT field goal clips of 0.652 and 0.476 respectively. Although the latter comes from a small sample size, it’s important to note that on a technical basis, his action needs little work. This means that he can continue to make the same type of shot, without having anything about his shot altered by future NBA coaches. Maintaining that synchrony is key for any type of shooter.
Moreover, while not known for his athleticism and dominance, Collins displays strong abilities to catch and finish lobs. A complete part of his game currently, though, is his low post scoring ability. Collins is able to use his IQ and technical know-how to execute successful moves in the post, flummoxing opponents.
“I think there’s no reason why I can’t be rookie of the year” explained a confident Collins. While this may be too tough an ask for the 7 footer out of Gonzaga, it is worth noting his determination and willingness to succeed.
Caleb Swanigan: Hard-nosed and Promising
Swanigan had a fantastic year with the Purdue Boilermakers and was well worthy of his first round selection this draft. At 6’9″ and 249 pounds, he consistently showcasing brute force and effort defensively. Swanigan has an uncanny ability to grab rebounds at will and impact the game on the defensive end. However, while he is nowhere near complete as an offensive piece, his post moves are serviceable. Swanigan will definitely need time to develop but his established skillset should guarantee him minutes from time to time.
Swanigan is more of a high energy player than anything else. Someone that can come in for short stretches at a time and immediately inject pace and power. He isn’t going to set the league on fire, and may spend a lot of time on the bench, but remains an exciting prospect nonetheless.
Passing on Other Elite Talents
When Portland secured the 10th pick, they still had the opportunity to draft other exciting prospects, who went ahead of Zach Collins in many mock drafts. Malik Monk, Luke Lennard, and Donovan Mitchell were still up for grabs at the time. However, Olshey opted for the ‘fit over ability’ attitude. As fantastic as the other prospects may have been, they would not have been able to help out as much as Collins can. This is due to their positions; all in the backcourt, where the Blazers boast their star talent.
In Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Portland has a longtime duo of guards that aren’t going anywhere. It would not have made much sense to draft another backcourt player, no matter how talented they would be.
A Crowded Blazers Frontcourt
Along with the newest additions from the draft, the Blazers now have to deal with an extremely stacked and youthful big man rotation. In it, they have:
Jusuf Nurkic, C, 22 years
Festus Ezeli, C, 27 years
Meyers Leonard, C, 25 years
Zach Collins, PF/C, 19 years
Ed Davis, PF/C, 28 years
Noah Vonleh, PF, 21 years
Caleb Swanigan, PF, 20 years
Designating minutes for all these big men will be a tough ask for head coach Terry Stotts. Expect a few of these players to be joining new teams heading into the 17-18 NBA season. The Blazers are lucky, however, to have so many players to choose from.
While some feel their decision to trade two picks for one purely to draft Zach Collins was questionable, Portland possess two highly talented big men. The 2017 NBA Draft could be of paramount importance to Blazers basketball in the coming years.