Blazers trade up to get Gonzaga’s Zach Collins
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers traded up to get another big man.
Portland, which had three first-round picks going into Thursday night’s NBA draft, dealt the No. 15 and No. 20 picks to the Sacramento Kings for the No. 10 pick, center Zach Collins out of Gonzaga.
The 7-footer, who played off the bench in his lone season with the Bulldogs, averaged 10 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Gonzaga went 37-2 last season, advancing all the way to the NCAA Tournament championship game against North Carolina.
Collins, 19, was Gonzaga’s first one-and-done player. For the draft at the Barclays Center in New York, he paid homage to his hometown with a blazer lining and shoes decorated with “Las Vegas” prints.
He found out about the trade “about 30 seconds” before he took the stage and donned a Kings hat, he said.
In return for Collins, Sacramento got the draft rights to small forward Justin Jackson out of North Carolina, the 15th overall pick, and Duke forward Harry Giles, the 20th.
Portland also took 6-foot-9 forward Caleb Swanigan out of Purdue with the 26th pick. The Big Ten Player of the Year averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds last season as a sophomore.
Collins said he can play at either the four or the five. He could be used in tandem with Jusuf Nurkic, a 6-foot-11 center who joined Portland in a February trade with Denver. Portland also has 7-footer Meyers Leonard, a four-year veteran of the team.
Collins didn’t mince words when it comes to what he thinks he can accomplish in his first year: “I don’t see why I can’t be Rookie of the Year.”
Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said Collins caught his eye when Gonzaga played at Portland earlier this year.
“He’s everything you want to look for in a big man in our league today, because he can play inside and out, he can defend the rim, he can defend one-on-one, he can defend pick and roll, Olshey said. “We think, whether he plays behind Nurk, then he can play with him too against some bigger lineups.”
Portland went 41-41 this season before getting ousted by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. It was the fourth straight year that the Blazers advanced to the postseason.
The NBA’s youngest roster dipped 11 games below .500 with a 120-113 overtime loss at Detroit on Feb. 28.
But upon his arrival, Nurkic developed chemistry with backcourt duo Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, going on to average 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 20 games with the Blazers. Portland was 14-5 with Nurkic in the starting lineup.
Nurkic sustained a non-displaced right leg fibular fracture and missed the final seven games of the regular season but returned for about 15 minutes in Game 3 of the Blazers’ playoff series against the Warriors.
The Blazers’ winningest starting lineup included Lillard, McCollum, Nurkic and forwards Noah Vonleh and Maurice Harkless.
“To be honest, I just know that they’re a tough team and they don’t really back down from anybody,” Collins said. “And those are traits I grew up with and are part of my game as well. Just that, in itself, I can fit in almost perfectly there.”
Olshey said the team did not select Collins based on position, but he was the best player the team had a shot at landing.
Swanigan overcame a troubled childhood and weight issues before developing into a top recruit.
“One of the things I’m really happy with is we got two of the toughest guys in this draft,” Olshey said. “They are going to bring a lot of grit, a lot of toughness. They both have a competitive fire.”
Portland signed hefty contracts with Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and Leonard last year, and the team has the third-highest payroll in the league.
More AP NBA: www.apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball