3 former first-rounders Raps could give a fresh start


Zach Collins, Toronto Raptors

PORTLAND, OREGON – FEBRUARY 06: Zach Collins #33 of the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors free agency bonanza will kick off soon after they add a player like Jalen Green or Jalen Suggs to the squad with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. While the front office is trying to make sure they nail it with this selection, they also need to keep an eye on the free-agent market for bargains.

The Raptors should take a gander at some former first-round picks that never quite found their footing with their original teams. Sometimes, a change of scenery and the tutelage of a coach like Nick Nurse can be enough to get their pro careers turned in the right direction.

The Raptors have subscribed to this low-risk strategy over the last few years by bringing in a couple of former top prospects. Sometimes it has worked out, like in the case of DeAndre’ Bembry, and sometimes it hasn’t as proven by Stanley Johnson’s steep regression after his bubble stardom.

The Raptors should take a chance on one of these three projects. Odds are, if they hit their development stride, they can put their early career struggles behind them as they start a second act as a productive role player with Toronto

These 3 former first-round picks could become Toronto Raptors.

3. C Zach Collins

Oh boy, do the Blazers regret this one. Portland picked Collins after trading up to No. 10 overall in the 2017 draft, passing over players like Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, and OG Anunoby in the process despite the fact that the skinny big man didn’t start at all during his college tenure at Gonzaga.

Injuries have sucked the life out of Collins’ NBA career, as he has played in just 11 games over the last two years. On the court, he hasn’t lived up to his promise. He has started just 12 games in Portland, averaging 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while converting on just 44% of his shot attempts.

Could the Toronto Raptors rescue Zach Collins?

Even after he has stepped on every proverbial landmine that he could’ve stepped on in his pro career, Collins will likely find work elsewhere this offseason, as his mobility and athleticism, would they be intact post-injury, could help a team that plays fast on offense like Toronto find a backup center.

Even when Collins has been healthy, his formative developmental years were spend behind several other bigs in a system designed to maximize the stats of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Toronto won’t try to turn him into Chris Bosh, but if they can help him be a bit more efficient on offense, his pro dreams could continue in the NBA.