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NBA Daily: Trail Blazers Highly Value Zach Collins

Portland resisted trade offers for Zach Collins and are excited about his future in the NBA, writes James Blancarte.

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The Portland Trail Blazers emerged from the NBA trade deadline without having made a blockbuster move. There were a lot of rumors circulating prior to the deadline that involved some big names but no sort of major move materialized. Much of the speculation for making a trade had to do with the team’s front court depth. The team has been successful this season but has not fully recaptured the magic that occurred when the team traded for center Jusuf Nurkic last year.

In addition to Nurkic, the team had Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins on the roster. With the glut of big men and centers on the Trail Blazers’ roster, the team made a decision to offload Vonleh.

Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey spoke to Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest to discuss a number of topics around the team and the trade deadline. In the interview, Olshey addressed the decision to send of Vonleh and why it would be to his benefit.

“We have future salary going forward; that will be impactful and we could be in the tax. And along with that, we give Vonleh a chance. He had a chance here and performed well at times,” Olshey said. “He’s been beaten out, this is the young guy we care about that will be a free agent. And you don’t want to watch a guy die on a vine on the roster and enter a really tough market having not played for the last five months.”

With the trade, the team helped to somewhat alleviate concerns the franchise had with getting under the luxury tax threshold this season. Such worries had fueled rumors that the team would possibly find a way to move on from either Leonard or forward Maurice Harkless, although trading either player would have come at a much higher price for the franchise.

With the Vonleh trade, there is one less big man vying for playing time. In recent games, Vonleh had been mostly out of the rotation. Despite having recently come back from injury, Leonard has also been out of the rotation, leaving Collins in place to snatch up many of the available rotation minutes to display his abilities on a more consistent basis.

Collins recently spoke to Basketball Insiders and shared some insights into his game, his goals and his progress as a player so far.

“I have very high goals, obviously, that I want to accomplish in my career. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done I can retire and say that I was once an All-Star, I was once on a championship team,” Collin said.

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that any NBA player has such lofty goals. For NBA fans who are less familiar with Collins, it may not be obvious how highly he is valued in Portland. However, Olshey makes it clear that the team is very excited about his talent, potential and future.

“[W]e think he’ll be a big-time player. It’s interesting, you canvas 30 teams,” Olshey stated in his conversation with Jaynes. “Every conversation somehow circled back to Collins and it was amazing how aggressive teams would have been if we put him in play which wasn’t going to happen.”

With Collins currently untouchable, the Trail Blazers find themselves fully invested in the 20-year-old center and his future. Collins spoke about what his best skills are and what he could improve on.

“Right now, I would probably say shooting the ball is probably my strength, and I’d like to get better on being able to just impact the game multiple ways on offense. In the post, driving and shooting,” Collins told Basketball Insiders.

Despite the competition that comes with so many low post players vying for a limited number of minutes, Collins did not hesitate to credit teammate power forward Ed Davis as a mentor who has helped Collins with his game.

“I think right now just because me and Ed Davis going in game, the same time a lot so, we play a lot with each other so we had to talk to each other a lot. He’s been a great vet. He’s been teaching me a lot out on the court,” Collins stated. Per nba.com, when Collins and Davis share the court, the two possess a plus/minus of +1.4. When controlling for the minimum number of games played, the two have one of the highest net plus/minus for any two players on the team.

Now halfway through his first year in the NBA, Collins admits that making the NBA was always his goal but that even he was surprised by how quickly he made it to the league.

“I’ve always wanted to get to the NBA. It’s been a dream of mine since as young as I can remember. In fact, that happened so soon I wasn’t expecting that, but definitely it has been a dream of mine,” Collins said.

In speaking with Collins, he often shifts the conversation away from himself and toward his teammates. Collins had nothing but good things to say about his teammates, including star guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

“[P]robably two of the best guards we have in this league. The fact that they’re on one team, it helps us a lot with wins and they’re also great guys in the locker room. Great guys that, you know, they’re not opposed to helping young guys like me learn a lot, so they’ve been great,” Collins relayed.

With great teammates that support and aid his development and a front office that is invested in him, Collins appears to have significant support within the franchise. In addition, with one less player vying with him for playing time, Collins can continue to use his role in the rotation to work on his skills and continue developing into the impact player everyone in the Portland franchise foresees.

James Blancarte is a writer for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney based in Los Angeles, California.

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