Handing out leaguewide awards to the San Antonio Spurs
By Ty Jager
Most Improved Player of the Year - Zach Collins
Zach Collins' career has been a roller coaster since entering the league. Portland drafted him tenth overall in 2017, and Collins had a minor role, only playing around 16 minutes per game in his first two seasons. Going into his third season, he had a lot of momentum before injuries interrupted his career. He would ultimately miss the entirety of the 2020-21 campaign after undergoing ankle surgery.
Portland decided to move on, but San Antonio took a chance on the former lottery pick and his unique flashes of two-way ability. Collins wrapped up his second season with the Spurs and solidified his spot as the starting center.
After trading Jakob Poeltl at the deadline, Collins was promoted to the starting lineup and did a phenomenal job, averaging 16.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks on 49.4% shooting over his last 19 games. But what made Collins stand out was his ability to stretch the floor. During his stretch as the starter, Collins knocked down 39.2% of his threes on 4.2 attempts a game. While Poeltl created opportunities for his teammates, Collins brings a more dynamic scoring package.
Collins isn't a slouch on defense, either. During his time as a starter, he consistently locked down opposing bigs. While it's not to the same level as Poeltl, who many consider one of the best rim protectors in the league, he is still serviceable and has only been getting better.
Although injuries derailed the beginning of his career, Collins has made a statement. Going from the sidelines to fighting for a backup spot to becoming a solidified starter is one phenomenal comeback story.