First-Round Candidate: Zach Collins

ID CARD: 7-foot-0 center, Gonzaga, freshman, 19 years old

DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 12th by; ninth by; second among power forwards by

SCOUTS LOVE: Pop in the tape of Gonzaga’s Final Four semifinal win over South Carolina. Collins made his case emphatically that he was ready to come to the NBA despite coming off the bench during his only college season – a development sparked by a 2015-16 injury to Zags center Przemek Karnowski after Collins had signed his letter of intent in November 2015. He’ll need time and strength – similar in that regard to Pistons 2016 No. 1 pick Henry Ellenson – but the breadth of Collins’ skills at both ends makes him a no-doubt lottery pick. He can block shots, hit jump shots and score in the paint with both hands. Collins got a lot done in his 17 minutes a game for Gonzaga: 10 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots while shooting 67 percent inside the arc and nearly 50 percent from the 3-point arc. He didn’t shoot it much from deep – just 21 times all season, making 10 – but that’s enough to see the possibilities he brings to either center or power forward in the modern NBA.

SCOUTS WONDER: There aren’t major questions hovering over Collins, but whether he becomes a star or a guy who hangs around the league for 12 to 15 years will come down to how he develops physically and whether with added strength the foul trouble that was a fairly persistent problem despite limited minutes is resolved. There haven’t been many lottery picks with as little starting experience as Collins. Even in high school, at prep power Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Collins mostly came off the bench as a junior behind Stephen Zimmerman, drafted in the second round by Orlando last summer after one season at UNLV, and Chase Jeter, who transferred to Arizona recently after coming off the bench at Duke for two years.

NUMBER TO NOTE: 6.2 – that’s how many fouls per 40 minutes Collins committed during his only season at Gonzaga and it’s not like the Bulldogs played against a ton of NBA-caliber big men in the modestly talented West Coast Conference. Collins was one of the few effective Gonzaga players in a poorly played national title game against North Carolina, but he was limited to 14 minutes – nine points, seven rebounds, three blocks – because he amassed five fouls. In his breakout game against South Carolina – 14 points, 13 boards, six blocks – Collins picked up four fouls in 23 minutes. It’s probably something that will diminish as he gains experience. There are rarely sure things in any draft, so Collins’ nagging foul problems aren’t likely to turn anyone away. But it could be something that limits his effectiveness, at least for the first several years of his career.

MONEY QUOTE: “Dirk (Nowitzki) and Tim Duncan are two guys (he studies). Dirk, he can shoot from anywhere. Unlimited range. He can drive. I think he’s unguardable. And then Tim Duncan, who can finish under the rim, post up, shoot mid-range, block shots, rebound, defend guys that were stronger than him sometimes. I think those two guys are two of the people I try to emulate.” – Collins at the NBA draft combine on May 12.

PISTONS FIT: After spending last year’s No. 1 pick on Ellenson, the Pistons’ interest in Collins might depend to some degree on whether they feel as strongly as Collins does that he is equally capable of playing center and power forward. Collins said at the combine that, “I think I’m a five. I grew up playing the five. But at Gonzaga I played the four and with the NBA, everyone’s my size. I think it’s kind of cool that I can play both.” Being able to back up Andre Drummond and give the Pistons minutes at power forward, too, would make Collins a very nice frontcourt fit. Pairing Collins with Ellenson would give Stan Van Gundy two virtual 7-footers with shooting range; pairing him with Drummond would give the Pistons two rim protectors who would also be compatible offensive fits.

BOTTOM LINE: Collins might have played himself out of range of the Pistons with his Final Four showing. The fact that two likely top-10 picks – Robert Williams of Texas A&M and Miles Bridges of Michigan State – unexpectedly decided to return for their sophomore seasons could well be the difference between Collins lasting to the 12th pick or going before the Pistons get a chance to call his name. If he’s available at 12, it would appear hard for the Pistons to pass him up.

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