PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey was interviewed Thursday at the NBA draft combine by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Jay Bilas and Maria Taylor.
Olshey spoke about the draft process and his success in selecting players from mid-major colleges. He also answered questions about Zach Collins and the team's upcoming offseason.
Here's a partial transcript of Olshey's answers:
Offseason game plan
"We’ve been trying to rebuild on the fly. Three years ago, we lost a franchise player in LaMarcus Aldridge. We decided to change direction and build around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s timelines, and we’ve been doing it while also not subjecting our fans or our franchise to 25-win seasons. We didn’t feel, based on the talent of Dame and CJ, that would be a viable approach. So we’ve been filling the backroster with the Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigans, trying to find guys like Moe Harkless and Shabazz Napier here and there.
"One of the things we were a little too conservative with this offseason and at the trade deadline, we were too protective of our draft pick and our trade exceptions, and the tools we had to continue to build the roster long-term, and maybe lost sight of the fact that the first round was going to be more competitive than we expected. We went into it realizing, based on our regular-season success, that as constructed we can move out of the first round, but the reality we’re all facing was we were all going to run into Houston or Golden State in the second round.
"At some point, discretion becomes a better part of valor. Is the value of making the second round and giving up long-term roster building tools worth getting in there and then facing two juggernauts that we all clearly knew back in July were going to be playing each other in the conference finals?
"This offseason, we shift our focus to playoff-caliber guys, guys that hit the right benchmarks with the body of work that can really perform come April, knowing the rebuild got done quicker than we thought and it’s time to start thinking playoffs success over just whether we can or can’t make the playoffs while we’re retooling." (Story continues below)
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Evaluation of Zach Collins’ first season
"Zach (Collins) is an example of basing the foundation of your evaluation tools on how he played and the way he impacted the game.
"We saw him multiple times, some of it was against lower major competition, which we had to factor in. But his length, his ability to shoot the ball, his touch, his feel, he has a lot of competitive instinct in him, he was a tough kid. We liked that he played high school in Las Vegas. He wasn’t a kid hiding in the suburban leagues, he competed at a high level through high school.
"His wiring, getting to know him as a player, knowing he could step in right away and garner the respect of the veterans with his work ethic and his toughness. I think we saw that in the playoffs. He didn’t perform at a level he’s capable of relative to his talent level. But when you see him go head-to-head with Rajon Rondo and go right at Anthony Davis – these are the blue chips of our league and he wasn’t intimidated.
"That really sets a great platform for him moving forward as a foundational piece."
On Zach Collins' offseason
"It’s our responsibility to move him back closer to the basket. We compared him a lot to Kevin McHale, LaMarcus Aldridge when he was young, even a young Rasheed Wallace.
"We moved him away from the basket. He played a lot with Ed Davis, in combination, and Ed was clearly the dive guy playing with a foot in the paint, and it forced Zach to play really a bit outside his comfort zone a little sooner than we would have liked, out at the 3-point line just to open up the floor a little bit for Dame and CJ and Evan Turner and our penetrators.
"What I’d like to see is him getting back to being an inside-out threat, establish presence inside, as a scoring threat, where we can maximize his passing, and then move out to the perimeter when teams adjust."
Jared Cowley writes about the Portland Trail Blazers and other topics for KGW. You can reach him at twitter.com/jaredcowley.