In surprising fashion, the Portland Trail Blazers are out of the NBA playoffs after getting swept by New Orleans. Zach Collins, the first one-and-done player in program history, is officially done with his rookie year and he is ready to build upon what he accomplished during this 'freshman' campaign.
As the No. 10 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Collins was traded from Sacramento to Portland and earned a spot on the opening day roster. Certain rookies can make a big impact from game one, but Collins was not ready for that role in October.
"This has been the first year of basketball for me where I couldn't just go out there and do what I want," Collins said during his exit interview in front of the media.
Collins had a stiff learning curve to begin the season. On December 5, Collins only had three career points to his name.
"Coming from high school to college--being consistent every night numbers wise and night's going 1-for-6 or 1-for-4 has never really happened for me before. That was a big learning curve for me."
Starting in early December though, the former Gonzaga sixth man earned more minutes on the court and became a much bigger piece to this team.
"Whenever you see success on the highest level of basketball, it's definitely going to help your confidence," Collins said. "Obviously, seeing success on the court with a team that was so successful during the regular season and having a big role in that--definitely helped me a lot."
General Manager Neil Olshey said, "I think Zach did really well for us. I think he did what he was asked to do. I think he had an impact defensively."
Olshey was more impressed by his worth ethic than anything else in year one.
"As the tenth pick in the draft, he had to earn his stripes. (Playing time) wasn't handed to him day one," Olshey said. "He joined a playoff team...with playoff aspirations and other guys got opportunities before him at that position. So, when he got on the floor, it was with the backing and endorsement and respect from the veterans in the locker room that he earned it."
His 4.4 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per contest won't wow you on the stat sheet, but let's not forget, Collins turns 21 years old in November. What's important for Collins is continual progression and that's what he's focusing on heading into the offseason.
"The coaches have been talking to me all year about how this is a really important summer for me. It's probably the biggest summer of my career," Collins said. "I definitely need to put on weight, that will be a huge part of my development. I want to be more consistent scoring. Shooting the ball, posting up, ball handling--being able to take guys off the dribble...they're all parts of my game that will be a big emphasis this summer."
Collins will take a little time off after playing the longest basketball season of his life, but after processing his second transition in as many years, he's finally ready for a sophomore season.
"I just want to come in and be in the best shape of my life. Be the best skill-wise I've been in my whole life. I just want to be as good as possible," Collins said.