The NBA Draft is finally upon us. After weeks of criss-crossing the country from workout to workout, NBA hopefuls will find out where they will continue their basketball careers, whether that be through the draft or via undrafted free agency.
For Gonzaga fans, interest in the event will lie with where Zach Collins, the program’s first one-and-done player will be taken. Just about every mock draft I’ve seen has the Las Vegas native coming off the board in the lottery section of the draft. Nigel Williams-Goss also hopes to hear his name called, though he will have to wait longer than his younger teammate to determine his fate. In a different era, Przemek Karnowski would have been a lock to be drafted, but the NBA game has changed to the detriment of traditional back-to-the-basket bigs. The Polish center did work out for a handful of teams, and is a strong candidate for a summer league invite.
Here’s what some of the more prominent mock drafts are currently projecting for Gonzaga’s NBA hopefuls:
Denver Nuggets #13 (Zach Collins) - Collins broke out in the NCAA tournament as arguably Gonzaga’s best player on its way to the NCAA tournament title game. He offers a combination of shooting and shot blocking that should be attractive next to Nikola Jokic in the frontcourt. A player like OG Anunoby would also be a nice fit here, but taking Collins would be a case of going for the best player available.
Detroit Pistons #12 (Zach Collins) - Teams are intrigued by Collins’s potential to space the floor and his impressive defensive displays last season. The Pistons need shooting, but Collins would be good value here, and a solid piece no matter what direction they go. Detroit’s been involved in trade rumors dating back to February and could certainly be active.
Atlanta Hawks #60 (Nigel Williams-Goss) - Williams-Goss is the type of intelligent passer who could make sense in the Hawks’ system as a potential backup for Dennis Schröder.
Denver Nuggets #13 (Zach Collins) - Collins is the first one-and-done player in Gonzaga history. The 7-foot forward shot 47.6 percent from the 3-point line on the season -- and finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in the Zags' national semifinal win over South Carolina. Those numbers and that performance on such a big stage helped secure a place in the top 20 of this draft. He could go in the top 10. But, if he doesn't, he won't go much lower than this.
Detroit Pistons #12 (Zach Collins) - Collins had a fast climb up Draft boards in the second half of his freshman season, even for someone prominent enough to be a major recruit for the Zags. Although front offices don’t want to over-emphasize one game, the 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in the national semifinals of the Final Four showed he can already handle the pressure moments. Collins averaged just 17.2 minutes on a team loaded with veterans, but that was enough to impress the NBA.
Boston Celtics #56 (Nigel Williams-Goss) - A smart, solid distributor with three seasons of experience against major competition, at Washington and Gonzaga as part of the Zags’ run to the national-title game in 2017. Like Morris from Iowa State, Mason from Kansas and Hart from Villanova, Williams-Goss can stick at point guard from back in the pack because he finds a way to contribute and is mature.
Miami Heat #14 (Zach Collins) - Christmas in June for Pat Riley's team, as Collins falls to 14. The young big man is just solid, solid, solid. We got to see Zach Collins' best college game on the biggest of stages when he dropped 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks on South Carolina in the Final Four. While he'll never be called spectacular, there are few holes in Collins' game. He combines size and mobility, touch and strength. If Collins can stretch his range and become a consistent NBA 3-point shooter, he could be a very impactful player. Not a star, but you'll have a great chance at getting a very solid all-around two-way big man, and that's a valuable thing.
New York Knicks #58 (Nigel Williams-Goss) - Solid, solid, solid. Williams-Goss isn't flashy but he doesn't make mistakes, as we saw when he led Gonzaga to the national title game. He can be a great backup NBA point guard who can quarterback a team, rebound the ball at a high level and make shots when needed.
Sacramento Kings #10 (Zach Collins) - A skilled two-way center who easily projects as a good role player and could reach much higher levels as a scorer.
Sacramento Kings #10 (Zach Collins) - The Kings' other major need is at small forward. With Rudy Gay planning to opt out, they have a major hole there. The problem is that there might not be any available 3s worth taking this high.
Collins is an athletic rim protector who can also stretch the floor. They have a several young big men with Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein and Georgios Papagiannis already on the roster. But Collins' talent is worth a selection here.
Collins goes in for a second workout in Sacramento on Monday. A lot of scouts are split between those three bigs.
Sacramento Kings #10 (Zach Collins) - I would put Collins among the five players most likely to be effective in the NBA, because of his precocious per-minute performance at Gonzaga and his obvious skill for his size. Nonetheless, the depth at center in the league right now means Collins isn't one of the top five prospects in terms of value. Even the Kings would have a crowd up front if they added Collins to Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Skal Labissiere. But they'd make it work.
Dallas Mavericks #9 (Zach Collins) - Dallas has scouted PG Frank Ntilikina heavily and he appears to be a strong possibility if he’s available at 9. Lauri Markkanen is another option. Collins versus Markkanen is one of the draft’s most interesting debates. While Markkanen certainly has more hype surrounding him and was more prolific in his freshman season, a strong case can be made that Collins is the better two-way prospect for the next level. Collins is a high-level shooter in his own right, and could be Dallas’ long-term answer at the center position.
Detroit Pistons #12 (Zach Collins) - Stan Van Gundy is in the market for an Andre Drummond replacement, and the former Gonzaga big man is as good a choice as any in this year's draft class. The Pistons might want to send the Hornets a thank you card for trading for Howard and letting Collins fall to No. 12.
Miami Heat #14 (Zach Collins) - The Heat’s best player is Hassan Whiteside, a shot-blocking center, so the fit may seem weird. But Miami is known to be looking for another big man, and Collins’ shooting ability means he probably could slot into power forward when necessary. The Miami Herald reports that the Heat are definitely interested in Collins but not sure if he’ll make it to them.
Draft Express: Zach Collins #10 to the Sacramento Kings; Nigel Williams-Goss #60 to the Atlanta Hawks.
Bleacher Report: Zach Collins #7 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
NBADraft.net: Zach Collins #9 to the Dallas Mavericks.