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2017 NBA Draft Profile: Zach Collins has the look of a lottery pick

Gonzaga’s star freshman should go early in the first round.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of Gonzaga big men in the NBA, you don’t think of one-and-dones. Guys like Kelly Olynyk, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis all spent multiple years in college, and have begun to carve out roles on playoff teams.

Zach Collins, however, is the program’s first one-and-done. The 7-foot freshman was a key cog to Gonzaga’s run to the national title game, and decided one year in college was enough after a strong showing in the Final Four.

Collins was primarily Gonzaga’s sixth man, so he doesn’t have the gaudy per game numbers that other potential lottery picks have. But what he lacks in counting statistics, he makes up for in efficiency and a skillset that should translate well to the NBA.

Strengths

With a seven-foot frame and the ability to play both inside and out, Collins fits the mold of what modern NBA teams are looking for in a center. He’s effective down low on the block, and a small sample size showed that he’s able to stretch the floor past the three-point line to some degree. His versatility on offense should make him a fit in just about any offensive scheme.

Collins draws fouls at a high rate, converts a high percentage of shots at the rim, and he’s able to get open looks without the ball in his hands by being comfortable at either the four or five position. It’s unlikely that he becomes a go-to scorer that carries an offense, but he’s able to score in variety of ways.

However, Collins has the ability to have an even bigger impact on defense. In just 18.0 minutes per game, Collins averaged nearly two blocks per contest, and had a block rate that ranked in the top-25 nationally. He also pulled down nearly six rebounds per game, and had both offensive and defensive rebounding rates that ranked in the top-100. Extrapolate those numbers out to a full 40-minute game, and that’s an average of over four blocks and 13 rebounds per contest.

Here are his comparisons from KenPom’s similarity metric: Jakob Poeltl, Joel Embiid, Karl Anthony-Towns, DeAndre Jordan, Darell Arthur. That bodes well for Collins’s chances.

Weaknesses

For as good as Collins is at drawing fouls, he commits almost as many. Per 40 minutes, he drew 6.5 fouls, but committed 6.2 fouls in that same span. Collins fouled out of seven games this season, which is concerning for somebody who normally played less than half of the game.

There’s also concerns about consistency. He had one point against West Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen. He had four fouls in seven minutes against Saint Mary’s in the WCC Title game. In the National Championship, he had nine points and three blocks, but also committed four turnovers and fouled out. He shouldn’t be expected to be dominant in every single game, but struggling in the biggest games of the season causes scouts to take notice.

Lastly, Collins was slightly turnover prone during his time at Gonzaga. He averaged 1.5 per game in his minutes played, and whether it’s from poor decision making or just being careless with the ball, he will need to cut down on the turnovers if he hopes to earn the trust of his next head coach.

Projection

Collins brings a lot of skills to the table that NBA teams like. His ability to rebound, protect the rim, and convert on a high percentage of shots makes him an attractive option to fall somewhere in the late lottery. It all depends on which teams fall in that area, but Collins could go anywhere from 10-15, and could maybe even climb up a few spots with good showings at the combine and in team workouts.