Consistently Sidelined Collins Run His Course in Portland?


Of the 74 regular season games played in the 2019-20 season, former lottery pick Zach Collins played 11 of them.

He left the team early after dislocating his shoulder against the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth game of the season. He was able to return for the bubble games thanks to the mid-season break, but then injured his ankle during the play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Zach averaged 7.0 points/6.3 rebounds/1.5 assists in his 11 games, on 53% true-shooting, all of which were career highs.

His projected return date was sometime in mid-January according to Blazers GM Neil Olshey, and Blazers fans were eagerly awaiting his return.

On December 30th, he had to have surgery on his ankle again, putting him out indefinitely. Best-case scenario: he’s back at the start of the playoffs.

Zach is a fan-favorite among Blazer fans but his inability to stay on the floor for an extended period of time calls for Olshey and the rest of the Trail Blazers front office to have an uncomfortable, but necessary sit-down, and discuss the future of Zach Collins in the Pacific Northwest.

Option One: Zach Stays

I think I speak for all Trail Blazers fans when I say: We don’t want to see Zach go. We’ve grown to love the Gonzaga alum, from his floor-stretching, to his defense, to the energy he brings. One of my personal-favorite Blazer moments was courtesy of Big-Z. His bench reactions are also some of the best in the league.

But players don’t get contract extensions for bench reactions, and as of the extension deadline, Zach’s tenure in Portland will be up this offseason. Giving Collins a long-term contract right now would be a mistake, but I would love to see him return to Portland next season on a minimum so he can prove his worth and then give him a contract in 2022 if things go well.

In 2022, the Blazers will likely have their core for the future already intact, with Dame still under contract until 2025, and CJ until 2024. This also includes whatever signings and re-signings Portland makes this year, one of the most alluding free-agency classes of recent memory. Having Zach under contract for the minimum post those signings would be the most ideal situation.

Option Two: Zach Leaves

This is — sadly — what will likely happen. The Blazers should be moving into win-now mode. Lillard will be 31 when it’s time to re-sign Zach. They’ll have tried the Collins experiment for four years, and they’ll have come to the conclusion that it’s time to move on. There will be far better places to put the money he leaves behind.

This scenario also accounts for the Blazers waiting to re-sign Collins in favor of sending pitches to more valuable free agents, and him finding an offer in that time.

Where Collins ends up, we have no idea. He could realistically get money from any team in the league, or make his way overseas and get more money, playing time, but less recognition. Collins will be an NBA player come next year, and he should be one, but it probably won’t be in a Blazer uniform.

Another alternative could be Collins departing from the Blazers in a trade. What is the market for an oft-injured, former lottery pick, stretch five with defensive capabilities?

Who knows. It wouldn’t be insanity to think he’s worth a bottom-five FRP. A flier on the Kevin Porter Jr. train would have been intriguing, but that obviously did not end up happening.

What would Zach’s legacy in Portland be if he leaves?

Greg Oden, Jusuf Nurkic, Sam Bowie, Arvydas Sabonis, and now Zach Collins.

Zach would be the next in a long line of Blazer big-men who had their careers stunted and derailed by injuries. The ex-Bulldog would mostly be remembered for his potential. The thought of finally having a stretch wing to defend the likes of Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo has been elusive to Blazer fans for quite a while now, and the hope was that Collins could be that.

We’d just have to cherish the flashes we got.

Collins would mostly be remembered for his assistance in the Blazers’ 2019 postseason run. His glue-guy role, if you will. He wasn’t supreme on the court, but he did his job and he did it well.

What could Zach’s legacy in Portland be if he stays?

The same as the rest of the core pieces on the roster right now, really.

The end goal is a championship. That’s what Dame wants to be remembered for. It’s what CJ wants to be remembered for. It’s what Nurk wants to be remembered for. If Zach can return from this injury even 10% better than he was before, he can be a very valuable piece for the team moving forward. He was playing career-high basketball in his return in the bubble, so we really have no reason to doubt he’ll be that much worse when he eventually returns.

Nobody wants to get rid of Zach. 99% of fans in Portland adore him, and think he can be great. But we also have to come to terms with reality: Zach has not consistently played basketball in nearly a year and a half, and he’s not some generational talent like John Wall or Derrick Rose where the front office should hold out for him.

But look at what happened to those guys, they both got traded either during their injury recovery or shortly thereafter. Zach is nowhere near their level of talent, so why should the Blazers hold out for him like like he’s a former MVP?

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About Isaac Hinson

blazers enthusiast. 17.

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