Collins, Swanigan have 'a lot of potential'
The Trail Blazers and new draft picks Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan expect to have a long and successful relationship.
"What they bring to our team right now and what they're going to bring in the future is very encouraging," coach Terry Stotts said during a Monday press conference introducing the Nos. 10 and 26 picks from last Thursday.
"Both play a different way, but they know their game and have a lot of potential," Stotts said.
Collins went to Portland at No. 10, after the Blazers dealt picks 15 and 20 to move up. He's a 7-foot forward/center who played one season with NCAA runner-up Gonzaga.
Swanigan, 6-9 and 250 pounds, had two years at Purdue and was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2016-17. The Blazers kept their final first-round pick on draft night and used it on the power forward who said he doesn't see himself as locked into the label of a position on the court.
"Not to be too simple, but I see myself playing basketball," Swanigan said during the presser at the Blazers' practice facility in Tualatin. "You get on the court by shooting, passing, rebounding, defending."
Where and when and how much he plays will depend largely on his defense, he said.
"It doesn't matter what you do on offense, it matters who you can guard," Swanigan said.
Both players said they were excited to be in the NBA and to play for Portland — and for the Blazers' fans.
"They're really passionate," Swanigan said.
"It's easy to play" for fans like that, Collins said.
Since draft night, "I've been on Cloud Nine," Collins added. "I'm really excited. It's a great organization. I think it's a great place to start my career."
Swanigan, who overcame being homeless and overweight while growing up, said he was thrilled for the opportunity.
"The biggest thing I've always wanted was a chance," he said. "Draft night meant everything.
"It was a long wait (till he was selected 26th), but nothing compared to the four or five years of trying to get ready for the draft.
"I knew the team that picked me was going to really like and enjoy me."
Collins promised to work hard to help the Blazers win games.
When he signed with Gonzaga, "I expected to play a lot. That's what they told me when they recruited me. They told me I had to be ready to start."
He didn't, instead being used as a key reserve. He'll keep the mentality he had at Gonzaga when he suits up for Portland.
"I try to make an impact and affect the games in positive ways," he said.
Collins said he plays with "a chip on my shoulder" and gets his attitude from his father, in particular.
"I think it started with my dad. He wasn't the most skilled guy on the court, but he was probably the meanest everywhere he went," Collins said.
Stotts said the mental approach of both first-rounders stand out as positives.
"I like both of their demeanors on the court," Stotts said. "Both are very aggressive, hard-nosed players. They're aggressive.
"I like the players they are going to become. They're both young. Both have shown a willingness to work. The Xs and Os and things on the court will all work themselves out."
Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said that while the club is open to making deals before next season that would change the roster, "it's about building this thing the right way, so it's sustainable. ... We're going to be competitive while we do it.
"There are no quick fixes," Olshey said. "Quick fixes create problems. And that's not what we've been about here."
In Collins and Swanigan, Olshey said the Blazers have two new players who "are going to raise the bar in practices and games every day. We're incredibly pleased with what we were able to accomplish in the draft.
"They are going to contribute. They're going to fight for whatever minutes they get.
"From a talent standpoint, we're incredibly pleased we were able to get both these guys."