Zach Collins

Spurs Notes: Draft-Night Trade, Wembanyama, Castle, Collins

The Spurs opted for future assets over immediate value with the eighth pick in Wednesday’s draft, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. With UConn guard Stephon Castle already headed to San Antonio at No. 4 and no one else on the board that he really wanted, general manager Brian Wright worked out a deal to send the pick to Minnesota in exchange for an unprotected first-rounder in 2031 and a pick swap in 2030.

Although he admits the pick will eventually be used on some “11-year-old right now,” Wright doesn’t plan to be the one making that selection, as the hope is it will be become a valuable trade chip as the team rebuilds. The immediate benefits from the deal are that the Spurs create an additional $7MM in cap room, giving them roughly $26MM to work with, and they add to a collection of draft assets that now includes 11 first-rounders over the next seven years.

“Those decisions are always difficult because you do all the work on the draft, and there’s definitely players that you like,” Wright said. “But you have to weigh the calculus on what’s best for the future. And we felt like the package that we got was one that made sense to move off of the eighth pick for.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Wright said it’s “TBD” if Spanish point guard Juan Nunez, who was selected with the 36th pick, will be brought to the NBA next season, McDonald adds. Wright called Nunez, who will play for Spain in this year’s Olympics, “probably the best pick-and-roll player in the draft as a passer and creator.” The Spurs expect Harrison Ingram, who was selected at No. 48, to join Castle on their Summer League team and compete for a two-way contract at training camp.
  • Victor Wembanyama is “very happy” with the decision to take Castle at No. 4, per Tom Orsborn of The Express-News. He welcomed his new teammate via FaceTime after the pick was announced. “(Castle) is one of the most NBA-ready players in this draft and a very good person too,” Wembanyama said during a press conference at the French Basketball Federation.
  • Zach Collins is making progress after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder that he suffered in the final game of the season, Orsborn adds.“He’s doing great,” Wright said. “He’s working hard every day. Obviously, it was unfortunate, but you guys know Zach. He’s a hard worker and he’s been there before. He’s super competitive, so he attacks his rehab like he attacks the game, so he’s doing really well.”
  • Orsborn notes that the Spurs have several financial decisions left to make this summer. Devonte’ Graham has a $2.85MM guarantee on his $12.65MM salary for next season, and the team must waive him by Monday to avoid paying the full amount. Salaries of $3MM for Julian Champagnie and $2.5MM for Charles Bassey both become fully guaranteed if they’re still on the roster August 1.

Spurs’ Zach Collins To Undergo Shoulder Surgery

Zach Collins dislocated his right shoulder in the Spurs‘ season finale on Sunday and a subsequent MRI revealed a torn labrum, the team announced in a press release. Collins will undergo surgery and is expected to be fully healed to open the 2024/25 season, per the Spurs.

A 6’11” big man, Collins dealt with multiple major ankle injuries earlier in his seven-year career, playing just 39 total games from 2019-22. However, he was relatively healthy in 2023/24, appearing in 69 games while averaging 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 22.1 minutes per contest.

The 26-year-old opened ’23/24 as the Spurs’ starting center, but he was moved to the bench in December, when head coach Gregg Popovich slid Victor Wembanyama up a position in the frontcourt. Collins wound up making 29 starts, often manning the middle in the 11 games Wembanyama missed.

While it’s obviously very unfortunate that Collins sustained another significant injury, the good news is that he’ll have the entire offseason to recover. The fact that San Antonio expects him to be ready for the start of next season is a positive sign as well.

Collins signed a two-year, $34.8MM extension with the Spurs last October, which begins next season. He’s under contract through ’25/26.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Mamukelashvili, Collins, Brooks

The Grizzlies will be without 13 of their 15 standard contract players when they take on the Lakers on Friday (Twitter link via Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Damichael Cole), epitomizing an injury-mired and disappointing season.

Memphis dealt with long-term injuries to almost everyone on its roster and continues to cycle through 10-day contract hardship players to see what sticks. Two-way players have started over 50 combined games for the team that has seen an NBA-record 33 individual players suit up this year.

That leaves the Grizzlies, a team that is widely expected to be a playoff contender at full health, in a unique position this offseason. Players like GG Jackson and Vince Williams proved themselves as valuable young rotation pieces, while others like Jake LaRavia and Lamar Stevens are shouldering big minutes down the stretch. But with the likes of Luke Kennard, Marcus Smart and Desmond Bane set to return from injury next season, the Grizzlies will have crucial decisions to make.

Cole writes about the Grizzlies’ wing rotation logjam, noting that if you factor in Yuta Watanabe (player option), Ziaire Williams and John Konchar, the Grizzlies have nine wing players to account for next season. Some sort of movement on the roster, either by way of trade or waiver, would need to take place to balance the rotation.

Cole says that all signs point to the team picking up Kennard’s $14.7MM team option next season, but ponders whether the team could trade Ziaire Williams, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Grizzlies have shown a tendency to trade players in the final years of their deals, like Steven Adams and Tyus Jones, as well as former first-rounders on rookie contracts, such as David Roddy.

The Athletic’s Kelly Iko and John Hollinger explore a similar topic, with Hollinger expressing that he expects Memphis to trade Kennard or decline his option in an effort to dodge the tax. The pair also discuss the fact that the Grizzlies hold a lottery pick and explore potential free agent options the team could look to sign.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs big man Sandro Mamukelashvili is playing a prominent role in the rotation as of late, including starting two of San Antonio’s last three games. As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes, Mamukelashvili has become something of a favorite for coach Gregg Popovich, who has played the Georgian forward 20 or more minutes in his last five games. He has been on a rebounding tear over that stretch, pulling down 9.8 boards per contest, including a career-high 16 on Tuesday. “He’s like a perpetual motion kind of thing,” Popovich said. “He’s moving all the time, with or without the ball. Sometimes I think he doesn’t know exactly why, but I love his movement and his IQ. He knows how to play.” Mamukelashvili will be eligible for restricted free agency after the season.
  • After a disappointing start to the season, Spurs center Zach Collins is determined to finish the year in a strong fashion, according to Tom Orsborn of San Antonio Express-News. Collins lost his starting job after 20 games during a shooting slump, but it looks like he has regained his form from beyond the arc as of late. He shot 42.9% from three in March and has made 33.3% of his outside attempts through five games in April, a big improvement from the 29.3% he shot from October to February. “He’s becoming a real pro, a consistent player who we know what we can get from night after night,” Popovich said. “He’s a good competitor. His skills are improving, his understanding of the game is improving, and he’s getting more confident.” Collins is under contract with San Antonio for two more seasons.
  • Dillon Brooks has been thankful for his season with the Rockets but said he wants to be more like himself next season, writes Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. According to Feigen, Brooks would like to be a more physical defender next year. “I don’t want to stir the pot too much, but I feel like the NBA restrained me from playing that type of game,” Brooks said. “But I’ve got to be on a ‘I don’t care’ mentality and just deal with what comes with it.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Bane, Collins, Rockets

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving hit a remarkable game-winner on Sunday against Denver (YouTube link), converting a left-handed floater/hook shot over Nikola Jokic as time expired. The game was tied prior to Irving’s heroics, with impressive back-and-forth shot-making from both teams in the final two minutes.

According to Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com, Irving’s teammates lavished praise on the eight-time All-Star after the game.

Unbelievable, man,” Luka Doncic said. “I don’t think people realize how tough of a shot that is. With the off-hand, like even to have a chance. I don’t think I have seen anything that special.”

I’ve seen a lot of great shots, but I think that one takes the cake,” added Dereck Lively.

Irving discussed the shot and the challenges of playing during Ramadan at his post-game media session (YouTube link via ESPN).

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Grizzlies guard/forward Desmond Bane, who returned to action on Saturday after missing two-plus months with a Grade 3 left ankle sprain, recently sat down for an interview with Michael Wallace of Grind City Media (Twitter video link via the team). Bane said he’s still trying to regain his conditioning after a lengthy absence. He also discussed Memphis’ young players and the team’s motivation for the rest of the season.
  • Spurs backup center Zach Collins has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol, tweets Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News, who notes that the 26-year-old “took a spill” in Sunday’s overtime victory over Brooklyn. In a related move, the Spurs have recalled big man Dominick Barlow from a G League assignment ahead of Tuesday’s game vs. Dallas (Twitter link via McDonald).
  • It’s a small sample size (three games), but the Rockets have been playing well without third-year center Alperen Sengun, who is likely out for the season with ankle and knee injuries, by playing at a faster pace, spacing the floor and crashing the glass with smaller lineups, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Rookie guard/forward Amen Thompson has been inserted into the starting lineup at power forward and he’s averaging 14.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.0 APG and 1.7 SPG while shooting 76% from the floor in the three victories (25.4 MPG). “Being small but how fast we are, defensive rebounding, we are able to push the pace, outrun every team,” Thompson said. “That’s really what’s happened. Just push it up and get a lot of fast breaks.”

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, McDermott, Branham, Barlow, Gray

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne declared during an NBA Today segment on Monday (Twitter video link) that Spurs phenom Victor Wembanyama is “ready to win” and questioned how patient the Rookie of the Year frontrunner will be as the front office looks to build out the roster around him.

However, Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link) pushed back against the idea that Wembanyama will be urging the team to accelerate the roster-building process.

“I say this without an ounce of exaggeration or hyperbole: I talk to people about the Spurs every day. And of all those people, there is one who is, by far, the most forward-thinking and relentlessly patient when it comes to the plan,” Finger wrote. “It’s the 20-year-old kid. And it’s not close.”

Armed with plenty of cap flexibility and an excess of draft picks this offseason, the Spurs will be well positioned to continue adding talent to their young core, but there’s no indication that the club will be looking to consolidate several of its assets in a win-now move quite yet.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • Ahead of the Spurs’s game against the Pacers on Sunday, Zach Collins admitted that he was sad to see former teammate Doug McDermott go at last month’s trade deadline, though he appreciated that McDermott landed in a favorable situation. “I talked to him the day it happened and just told him I was going to miss him and that it was really fun playing with him,” Collins said, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). “But I am happy for him that he got to go (to a playoff contender). In the playoffs you need shooting, and he is going to be really valuable for them.” McDermott was unable to suit up against his old team on Sunday due to a calf injury.
  • A full-time starter for the Spurs in November and December, Malaki Branham had been coming off the bench since January 2. However, he earned a rare start on Sunday and took full advantage by scoring 18 points and handing out six assists, much to the delight of his teammates, Orsborn writes (subscription required). “I don’t have words to say how excited I am for him,” Keldon Johnson said. “I’m happy for him and the way he stepped up tonight. We really needed it and it was big.”
  • After having been promoted to the Spurs’ standard roster from his two-way contract, Dominick Barlow earned praise from head coach Gregg Popovich for having improved “pretty dramatically” since joining the team, according to Orsborn. “He is someone who plays in a solid manner,” Popovich said. “You don’t see him making mistakes really. He is not really a shooter. He is a pretty good defender and he goes to the boards pretty well, runs well. So, all those kind of basic things he puts together and plays a game that kind of complements everybody else.”
  • RaiQuan Gray‘s new two-way contract with the Spurs will cover two years, running through next season, Hoops Rumors has confirmed.

Injury Notes: Cunningham, LaVine, Hawks, Spurs, Whitehead

Pistons guard Cade Cunningham, who has been out since January 7 due to a left knee strain, has been cleared to resume basketball activities, the team announced today in a press release. According to the Pistons, the plan is for Cunningham to begin ramping up for a return to action, which should happen within the next five-to-seven days.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • After rolling his right ankle in the third quarter of Thursday’s win over Toronto, Bulls guard Zach LaVine headed to the locker room, then returned to the bench and played a couple minutes in the fourth quarter, but he didn’t finish the game and it was “obvious” he wasn’t quite right, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. It’s unclear if the injury – which affected the same foot that cost LaVine 17 games earlier in the season – will force him to miss any additional time.
  • Hawks rookie Mouhamed Gueye (right low back stress fracture) has increased the intensity of his individual work and is now doing full-court activity, per the team (Twitter link). Gueye will be reevaluated in two or three weeks. In other Hawks health news, Trae Young has been ruled out for Friday’s game in Miami due to an illness, according to Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links).
  • Spurs big man Zach Collins is on track to return from his ankle sprain on Friday in Charlotte, says Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). The club has a back-to-back set tonight and tomorrow, so McDonald anticipates Collins will play on Friday and sit on Saturday, while Victor Wembanyama will be out tonight and play tomorrow.
  • The Nets announced on Thursday that rookie Dariq Whitehead has been diagnosed with a left shin stress reaction, adding that possible treatment options are still being considered, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link).

Spurs Notes: Jones, Wembanyama, Wesley, Collins

Tre Jones came off the bench the first two-and-a-half months of the season, but he has returned to the Spurs lineup as the starting point guard. Jones has started the past six games and racked up a season-high 12 assists in a 10-point loss to Atlanta on Monday. Jones is averaging 6.3 assists per game in those starts.

“Tre’s a guy who is going to get everyone organized,” forward Doug McDermott told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s been a big thing for our offense, playing a little faster right out of the gate.”

We have more on the Spurs:

  • Victor Wembanyama likes being coached hard, which makes him an ideal fit for the Spurs. Wembanyama feels his growth is tied to coach Gregg Popovich holding him accountable, McDonald writes in a separate story. Wembanyama bounced back after a scoreless first half against the Hawks by scoring 26 points. “I like to be coached,” Wembanyama said. “I like to be threatened to be sent to the G League if I don’t play the right way. I like when there are consequences to my mistakes.”
  • Blake Wesley has received rotation minutes lately, with 12 appearances in the past 13 games heading into Wednesday’s contest at Boston, according to McDonald. Wesley has cut into the playing time of Malaki Branham. “He’s in a kind of difficult position with the roster that we have right now and not knowing how much he’ll play or if he’ll even play,” Jones said. “I’m just trying to tell him to stay ready and be patient. He’s doing a great job. He’s a professional.”
  • Reserve center Zach Collins is getting close to returning from the right ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the past eight games. He could return as early as this weekend, as McDonald writes. “It’s feeling better,” Collins said. “I maybe just need a couple more games.”

Southwest Notes: Collins, Thompson Twins, Rockets, Pelicans

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said center Zach Collins could be sidelined “two to four weeks” with a right ankle sprain he suffered Friday at Portland, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The team had Collins stay home for Sunday’s game rather than put more pressure on his ankle by attending to sit on the bench.

Collins began the season as San Antonio’s starting center before recently moving into a reserve role. He’s in his third year with the Spurs and has been able to revive his career after missing the entire 2020/21 season due to a fractured fibula.

Popovich also provided a medical update on Charles Bassey, saying he’s doing well after undergoing surgery to repair his torn ACL (Twitter link). Bassey suffered the injury last month in a game with the Spurs’ G League affiliate.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson will have their first NBA meeting tonight when the Rockets host the Pistons, and Kelly Iko and James L. Edwards of The Athletic talked to the twins about the role that older brother Troy had in shaping their careers. “Without him, I don’t know if I’d like basketball as much as I did growing up,” Ausar said. “Troy always believed in us … ever since I was little, he always thought we were the greatest basketball players at our age that he had ever seen. He just didn’t think we could beat him. Having someone, and even my whole family, who believes in you like that, it makes you believe and keep going.”
  • With Detroit finally getting a win Saturday after dropping 28 straight games, it’s the Rockets who will come into tonight’s contest on a losing streak, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston has lost three in a row, all at home, and the defensive identity the team built early in the season is slipping. Feigen notes that the Rockets have the league’s worst defensive rating over their past three games and have allowed their last three opponents to shoot a combined 41.3% from three-point range. The defense might get a boost with the return of Jabari Smith, who missed Friday’s game with a sprained ankle but was upgraded to questionable on Sunday.
  • Zion Williamson believes the Pelicans‘ embarrassing 44-point loss to the Lakers in the semifinals of the in-season tournament might have been “one of those blessings in disguise,” per Christian Clark of NOLA. New Orleans has gone 7-3 since that game, including a 20-point win Sunday night in a rematch with L.A. “We went to Vegas hoping for a different outcome,” Williamson said. “I think it definitely brought us together more as a team. It definitely brought us closer as a staff. Everyone communicating. I feel like we have been playing great. We still have some things to figure out. But so does every other team.”

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, Collins, Sochan, Johnson

The Spurs have abandoned two experiments related to the development of No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. San Antonio began the season by starting Zach Collins at center and Wembanyama at power forward so the 18-year-old wouldn’t have to battle with other NBA big men. However, Collins’ unexpected struggles with outside shooting — he’s connecting at just 28.4% from three-point range after hitting 37.4% last season — caused coach Gregg Popovich to move him to the bench after 20 games.

“I think if we were shooting it a little bit better, I think it would have worked better,” Collins said. “The negative right now is spacing, so that’s a big reason why we went back to one big out there starting the game instead of two.”

Popovich has also stopped using Jeremy Sochan as his primary point guard, Fischer adds. Sochan is a versatile forward with a gift for passing, but he had never played point guard before Popovich decided to try him at the position in training camp. Fischer notes that instead of having a designated ball-handler, any of the Spurs’ starters are free to lead the break after grabbing a defensive rebound.

Even though the Spurs are losing at unexpected levels, dropping their 18th straight game last night, Wembanyama’s performance is providing hope for the future. He had 30 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and six blocks against the Lakers on Wednesday, and Fischer believes he’ll be a perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • The Spurs may consider moving Keldon Johnson before the trade deadline (video link), Marc J. Spears of Andscape said on the latest Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to RealGM). San Antonio has a surplus of wing players on its roster, and sources tell Spears that Johnson isn’t viewed as a good fit with the rest of the starting lineup.
  • Wembanyama’s first meeting with LeBron James didn’t happen Wednesday because the Lakers‘ star sat out the second game of a back-to-back with calf soreness, but the French rookie was excited about matching up with Anthony Davis, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “He’s somebody I’ve studied a little bit in the past and a great player of course,” Wembanyama said, “and I’m glad I’m going to be able to play so much more times against him.”
  • While Wembanyama has been outstanding, the Spurs don’t have the foundation they were hoping to build by having lottery picks in the previous three drafts, McDonald adds. Joshua Primo, their 2021 pick, is already off the roster. Sochan (2022) has been struggling, possibly because of the attempted position change, and Devin Vassell (2020) has cooled off in December after a strong start to the season.

Spurs Notes: Collins, Wemby, Sochan, Mamukelashvili, Jones

After starting the first 20 games of the season for the Spurs, center Zach Collins came off the bench for the first time this fall in Friday’s loss to Chicago. While many players would view it as a demotion to be removed from the starting lineup, Collins says he understands why head coach Gregg Popovich made the move and suggested he’s on board with it, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).

“Having more firepower coming off the bench is always going to help us take some relief off the starters,” Collins said. “Hopefully this spacing-wise will work a little better.”

Popovich said after the game that he “absolutely” intends to stick with this lineup change at least in the short term, so Collins will have to get used to playing with the second unit. After a strong showing on Friday that saw him put up 12 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in 23 minutes of action, the big man told reporters that it’s just a matter of adjusting mentally to the new role.

“I always said when you come off the bench, you don’t have the luxury of starting the game and getting into it fast, getting your body going, getting your mind into the game,” he said. “So you have to stay locked in even though you’re not in the game.”

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • Victor Wembanyama had a monster night in his first start at center, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game (he had 21 and 20, respectively), according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Unfortunately for the Spurs, it wasn’t enough to prevent their 16th consecutive loss.
  • Jeremy Sochan came off the bench for the first time this season on Wednesday before being reinserted into the starting lineup on Friday. Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News says Sochan’s confidence appeared to be shaken after Wednesday’s contest, with the 20-year-old deferring to the coaching staff when asked if he learned something from his time at point guard and whether he wants to keep playing there. Prior to Friday’s game, Popovich said there “is really no point guard” in San Antonio’s starting five, according to Lopez, who notes that Sochan shared ball-handling responsibilities during that game.
  • Reserve center Sandro Mamukelashvili – who hasn’t played much for San Antonio this season, logging 55 total minutes across seven appearances – took advantage of an assignment to the G League this week, McDonald writes. In his NBAGL season debut with Austin on Friday, Mamukelashvili racked up 34 points, 22 rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots. Mamukelashvili and Charles Bassey are expected to be sent to the G League more frequently to make sure they’re getting regular minutes, per McDonald.
  • Despite the Spurs’ frequent lineup changes (eight players have started at least one game), Tre Jones has been unable to crack the starting five this season after making 65 starts a year ago. That doesn’t mean the team is down on Jones though, according to McDonald (Twitter link), who says the Spurs “really, really like” the 23-year-old as a second-unit point guard for both the present and the future.