With Portland Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins now out injured indefinitely, how can the Blazers go about replacing him?
Portland Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins has unfortunately been ruled out indefinitely with a stress fracture to his foot. Fourth-year big Collins had corrective surgery to repair this issue, but he will likely be out for the whole season.
The Blazers will need to look at their big man depth chart now. Collins was likely to play some back up four and five as Jusuf Nurkic gets back into shape. Enes Kanter is an adequate backup big, but in some match-ups, he won’t fit defensively. This was where Collins would have fit in well with his superior defense at both the rim and then on the perimeter.
Though Collins hasn’t played a consistent role since the 2018/19 season, Blazers fans knew of his potential on both ends. He will be a big loss for this team, as he provided significant depth to the big man rotation when fit.
The Blazers will need to make some changes to their short and long-term plans for this position.
How can go the Blazers go about replacing him?
Option one – keep Enes Kanter’s minutes the same
As Collins hasn’t played in the season yet, Kanter has had the full backup big man role. Through the first few weeks of the season, he has averaged around 22 minutes a night. This minute total is slightly higher than expected as Kanter has actually acquitted himself better than expected on the defensive end.
This doesn’t solve the Blazers problems defensively, but Kanter can work as a backup in certain lineups.
Playing him at the five on backup units though, mean that they can only play certain power forwards next to him. Carmelo Anthony, because of his limited defense, can only play next to Kanter for short bursts.
This option isn’t a bad one – but Kanter won’t be able to play significant minutes at the five against some offensive-minded shooting lineups.
Option two – give Harry Giles more backup minutes
The second option is to give Harry Giles more backup minutes at the five. Giles hasn’t played in the regular season in meaningful minutes yet, which is interesting considering the Blazers’ porous defense. Through four games, the Blazers had the 30th ranked defense in the league. They have obviously had a good win over the Los Angeles Lakers and a short-handed Houston Rockets, but their defense has struggled in these two wins.
Giles could add value to the defense as a switch type big who can guard fours and some threes. Kanter is more experienced and is a better post player and finisher at the rim than Giles, but Giles has shooting range and is a better passer.
Giles may end up being in the rotation later on anyway, but maybe getting him into games now will make it easier for him when that time comes.
Option three – sign or trade for another four / five
The last option would be to trade for or sign another backup big man. Though the Blazers have three bigs, two of them in Nurkic and Giles have had historical injury issues.
The big man position isn’t a hard one to replace in terms of backups. They can be signed easily on the minimum, and then will be available in the case of an injury.
Because Collins was going to back up the four as well, that means they need someone who can play that position. Fours are a little harder to come by, but they aren’t looking for a rotation piece – only an end of bench four / five.
The tax is an issue when signing a replacement though; the Blazers are pretty close to the luxury tax line, and Neil Olshey has made it clear that they don’t want to go into the tax this season.
This means that they may wait till the end of the season where the pro-rated salary is less.
The long-term implications of Collins injury haven’t been felt yet, but for now, the Blazers have options within the squad that can cover the gap.
The trade deadline and signing moratorium are still a fair while away, so if they want to sign a backup, they can.