The young big who needs more minutes

Zach Collins.

Boom. I won’t make you read the entire article. You also probably guessed it was him from the feature image of this page. If not, well then get some observational skills, darn it!

What has Zach Collins done in only two games which has me falling head over heels for him? What can we expect from Zach Collins going forward and why isn’t Zach Collins getting more minutes? Why do I keep referring to him by his first and last name?

All good questions. I will try and answer each of them. Let’s tackle question number one.


Collins is from the School of Highhandsianism

A graduate of Hands High High School, Collins does everything to mitigate his somewhat underwhelming wingspan. Comparatively, most 7 footers in the NBA have a wingspan which exceeds their height. Or at least, the best shot blockers have wingspans that are abnormally larger than their height.

Collins bucks this trend. He stands a legitimate 7 feet tall, but has a 7’1″ wingspan. Not ideal. So why does he excel as a rim protector? Why was he able to get 6 blocks against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first game of his season?

Collins has a great standing reach of 9’3.” For comparison, Anthony Davis, last season’s league leader in blocks, had a standing reach of 9’0.” Collins compares well to other shot blockers like Capela (9’2.25″) and Myles Turner (9’4″). What’s more, Collins uses his reach to his advantage, and mitigates the fact that he has an underwhelming wingspan.

During his first game versus the Lakers, Collins had his hands up high before the offensive player attempted his shot. In fact, out of his incredible 6 blocks, he had his mitts raised up twice before the shot was attempted. By my count, this is a good ratio.

Below, watch Collins keep those puppies high and give Josh Hart no chance at this layup.

In this next clip, watch Collins stifle the crafty Rajon Rondo. Collins uses his tall frame to cut off Rondo’s angle for a rightside layup. Rondo has to adjust and for a scoop shot on the left side of the hoop, and Collins still blocks him. He embarrassed a former All-Star and veteran point guard.

The high hands aspect of Collins’ game is a mindset for him. How do we know? Collins does this on the offensive end of the court as well. If you close eyes and think really hard, you can hear an old high school coach yelling at some unskilled big man to “keep that ball high! You’re too tall to bring it down low where guards can slap at it!”

Here, Collins catches the ball in the paint while cutting to the rim. He does need to bring the ball down to collect himself for a dunk. Instead Collins says to himself, “wait a second, I’m 7 feet tall. I’m just gonna keep this bad boy up high and slam it home, cuz…duh.”


Collins is from the School of Defensive Instinctualism

I know what you are wondering. What about those four other blocks? Excellent question.

Upon review, those four other blocks display awesome defensive awareness by Collins. Most bigs (I’m looking at you, Kelly Olynyk) need years to learn how to play the game defensively. Collins picked up on defensive positioning and timing almost immediately.

His block against Lonzo Ball summed this up well for me. In this play below, Collins is defending Kyle Kuzma in the pick and roll. Lonzo is the ballhandler. The instant Collins sees that Kuzma is not popping for a three, he drops back into the paint. His spacing is perfect. Collins is in position to contest Ball’s shot and prevent Kuzma from receiving a dump off pass.

This play looks simple. It is not. So many big men in the league cannot read and react this quickly. Next time you are bouncing around League Pass, watch big men during this defensive play. Often times they overcommit to the ballhandler and allow an easy dump off pass. Or, they stick to the roll man to prevent a lob, and allow a layup.

Even LeBron screws up this defensive spacing…


Ugh, that Nurkic signing…

If you are wondering why Collins is not getting more minutes, look no further than Jusuf Nurkic’s 4 year/$48 million deal.

When you pay a center, especially one you traded for, an annual salary of $12 million a year, do not expect them to come off the bench too often. Portland may feel obligated to go with Nurkic, who is a good offensive player in his own right. Yet, Collins has feel for the game as a passer and a developing offensive game.

Collins is also the better floor spacer. Sure, Collins is still finding his footing as a stretch (and switch) five, but he shows a ton of promise. Compare Nurkic and Collins 3-point shooting from last season.

Totals Table
Rk Player Season G MP 3P 3PA 3P%
1 Zach Collins 2017-18 66 1045 35 113 .310
2 Jusuf Nurkic 2017-18 79 2088 0 7 .000

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2018.

Although not efficient, Collins at least attempted a sizeable amount of triples and projects to be a competent shooter from beyond the arc. Nurkic wants to shoot treys this year as well, but looks far behind Collins in his development

Additionally, Collins projects as a better defender than Nurkic. Nurkic gets roasted on pick and rolls, but is actually not as bad of a rim protector as many people think.

Yet, management will likely stick with Nurkic in the starters role, at least for the time being. That would be totally reasonable; Nurk is a starting caliber center. Is there a point, however, where they consider relegating Nurkic to the bench? As of now, Collins is playing 21 minutes per game while Nurkic is playing 20. Will this split grow even wider? I hope so.

Collins has flashed glimpses of promise that secure his as a better long term prospect than Nurk. Despite them both being young (Collins is 20, Nurkic is 24), Collins has shades of Al Horford in his game. It’s still wayyyyy too early, but depending on how the season goes for Portland, Collins could be given more minutes to speed up his development.


His nickname problem…

What do we do here?

Do we rock with Z-Co as a play on Z-Bo? Would that be too Portlandy? Do we call him ZC but morph it into Zeese? Like Z and C meshed together?

Or, do we call him Zachary, like we’re his parents and mad at him for not eating all of his veges?

I’ll stick with Zach Collins for now, but am open to suggestions.

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