Last summer, the San Antonio Spurs conducted business as usual when they made a sudden signing nobody saw coming. Taking a gamble, they agreed to terms with oft-injured 6-11 center/forward Zach Collins for three seasons.
Per the terms of the deal, Collins made $7 million this past season and will make $7.35 million next season and $7.7 million in 2023 for a total of just over $22 million. At the time of the signing, our own Roberto Araiza called it a "great gamble" for San Antonio if Collins was able to remain healthy.
Fortunately for the Spurs, the bruising big man from Nevada was able to showcase his renewed durability this year. Since his debut on February 4th, Collins was only inactive for one contest and averaged 18 minutes per game across his 28 games played.
During that span, Collins averaged 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game on 49% shooting from the field. Although his 34% mark from downtown could stand to improve, he had a few nights in which he'd make opponents pay for leaving him open, adding a new wrinkle to the Spurs' offense that rarely have had from their frontcourt.
Zach was particularly impressive in the doubleheader against his former team, the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 16.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game.
Has Zach Collins proven he was worth the gamble?
The biggest reason many saw the signing as a gamble was the injury history of Collins, which is pretty extensive. His biggest setback resulted in three surgeries on his ankle in a span of 10 months, which would rightfully give any team pause, especially with millions of dollars on the line and other options out there.
Beyond staying healthy, the Spurs needed a serviceable big to relieve Jakob Poeltl and bring similar effectiveness. While he still has a ways to go, it's hard to expect much more than Collins brought to the court considering he hadn't played since August 2020.
Zach brings toughness and attitude in addition to his on-court skills, something very valuable to this young squad. This summer, if he can work on his lateral quickness and interior presence in both defending and keeping guys off the glass, he could remain a permanent, effective backup.
While we're still in year one of three, it's safe to say the Spurs' gamble has paid off so far. That said, there's a high probability Brian Wright and the front office will be looking to upgrade their frontcourt by any means necessary over these next few months. At least, that's what they should be doing. As valuable as Poeltl is, no frontcourt Spur on the roster is close to being elite.
When training camp comes around, it'll be interesting to see who will be fighting alongside Collins and Jock Landale for minutes in a frontcourt that should be getting more crowded fairly soon.