Portland trades up to select Gonzaga’s Collins in NBA Draft

By Anne M. Peterson

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — 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, falling to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament championship game.

Collins, 19, was Gonzaga’s first one-and-done player. For the draft 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.”

Portland went 41-41 last 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.”

Portland signed hefty contracts with Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and Leonard last year, and the team has the third-highest payroll in the league.

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