Unless he is traded before the deadline, the San Antonio Spurs are comfortable with Jakob Poeltl being the clear-cut starting center on the roster. After waiving Gorgui Dieng, the Spurs only have three true centers on the roster, and Zach Collins and Charles Bassey are battling for that number two spot.
Both Bassey and Collins have room to make their case as the first guy off the bench and possibly slide into the starting spot if Poeltl is traded away. One is the heartbeat of the team and the other is a possible rising star.
Spurs' second option: Collins vs Bassey
One point in favor of Bassey is his rebounding. He averages 5.2 rebounds per contest, compared to Collin’s 5.5, despite Bassey playing seven fewer minutes per game. He also is 67% from the field compared to Zach’s 56% and is much more of an inside presence in the paint on both ends of the court.
The flip side to this would be that Collins is a much better floor spacer with a solid 38.6% from downtown on 1.6 three attempts a game. Bassey, however, avoids the three entirely, posting less than a single shot per game.
Zach Collins is also a much better passer, averaging 2.4 assists compared to Bassey’s 1.2 a game. Yes, Bassey plays fewer minutes a game, but the story remains the same even if you look at the per 36 stats. Collins finds the open man and doesn't play with his head down.
Zach Collins’ per 36 stat line is 16 points, ten rebounds, and four assists per game, compared to Bassey’s 13 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists. Per 36, stats always assume that efficiency stays the same as well. However, anyone with above-average knowledge of the sport knows with volume comes less efficiency most of the time.
The best arguments you can make against Collins are that he’s 3 years older than Bassey and averages 3.5 fouls per game, which is rather high for a player who only posts 20 minutes a contest.
However, backups never play this much, so you can argue that this is a moot point. That notwithstanding, it seems that even after saying all of this, it’s still an absolute toss-up for either player in this situation. The deciding factor in this debate might be how their play style fits with the needs of the team. After all, teams don't build around backup centers, so the Spurs should focus on fit.
Who is the better fit for the Spurs?
The best way to figure out who is the better backup center is simply to ask what the team needs in terms of spacing versus defense and paint presence. The Spurs are dead last in the NBA in OPPG, which means we allow the most points to the other team every game. Additionally, the Spurs shoot 34.6% from downtown as a team, which is ranked 19th in the NBA.
The worst defense in basketball doesn’t need floor spacing as much as it needs a guy to clean up the boards and get stops. Zach Collins is a solid stretch five, but the numbers show that just isn’t what we need right now as a team going forward.
The final verdict: Bassey is actually the clear option
After all of this, I personally have come to the conclusion that Zach Collins is a better player for the modern-day pace-and-space style of basketball that the NBA is leaning towards. Bassey, however, is the better player for what this team needs.
Additionally, the Spurs have always been more of a grit and grind team, meaning Bassey also fits the culture here in San Antonio much better. This is also only Bassey’s second season, while Zach Collins has been in the NBA since 2017.
We’ve more than likely seen what Collins will be; however, it will be exciting to see what Bassey can do as the days and years go on. After all, the Spurs are future-focused.