Hooked on a feeling: Neil Olshey was sold on Zach Collins in January

Hooked on a feeling: Neil Olshey was sold on Zach Collins in January

It was in January this year when Neil Olshey had a feeling about Zach Collins.

Throughout his career as an NBA executive, Olshey had often experienced a defining  moment in his evaluation of college players that changed his view of a player from a prospect to a target.

On Thursday, Olshey used his latest feeling to trade up in the NBA draft to select Collins – a 7-footer from Gonzaga -- with the 10th overall pick.

“He is a franchise-level building block,’’ Olshey said.

It’s not the first time Olshey has felt this way about a player.

In 2013, Olshey drove through an east-coast snowstorm to watch a Lehigh guard named CJ McCollum. It wasn’t the 34 points McCollum scored that night against Bryant College that stuck with him. And it wasn’t the fact McCollum missed a floater at the buzzer to win it.

It was how the loss gutted McCollum to the point where he stayed motionless in the key after the buzzer sounded. To Olshey, it showed a player who cared more about winning than his individual stats.

That summer, Olshey took McCollum with the 10th pick, and McCollum today has emerged as one of the NBA’s most prolific and creative scorers.

The year before, in 2012, after an afternoon of workouts with draft prospects, Olshey picked up a point guard named Damian Lillard on the way to a dinner with owner Paul Allen. Olshey was fresh on the job with the Blazers and didn’t know the area beyond the Blazers’ practice facility, and soon found himself lost en route to Oswego Grill.

“I remember he didn’t know where he was going,’’ Lillard would say later. “We got off on the wrong exit. Then we had the right exit, but were going the wrong way … and he was all mad, saying ‘Where the hell we at!’’’

During it all, Olshey remembered looking over at Lillard. He was calm. Cool. Unfazed. And as Lillard recalled, he remembered telling Olshey, “I know you are going to find it.’’

To Olshey, that moment of chaos revealed something special about Lillard. The young point guard was cool under pressure. And he was supportive of a teammate, even if it was an executive stressing behind the wheel.

A few weeks later, Olshey took Lillard with the No. 6 overall pick, and Lillard has shown the same traits both on and off the court as he has become on of the NBA’s marquee players.

Which brings us to January, and Collins, and Olshey’s latest moment.

The scene was the University of Portland’s Chiles Center and the event was Gonzaga at Portland, where Olshey and assistant general manager Bill Branch went to scout Collins.

At the time, the Blazers were scuffling through a disappointing season, were out of the playoff picture, yet to inflicted with Nurkic Fever. They were targeting lottery picks and were unsure whether they would find a target at the West Coast Conference game.

But soon, they saw a 7-footer who had a nice shooting touch. He also defended. He was also tough and competitive. Then, there was one play that sealed it. It wasn’t as subtle as the McCollum or Lillard moments, but it was enough to turn him from prospect to target.

“He caught a ball on the left block, got doubled teamed, and threw a behind-the-back, no-look pass,’’ Olshey said.

He turned to Branch.

“I said, OK Billy, we can go home,’’ Olshey said. “We’re done. Top 10 pick. We knew right then.’’

**

Funny thing is, in one way, Collins beat Olshey to the punch when determining his fate.

In October of 2012, when Collins was 14, he was playing the NBA 2k video game, which enables you to create yourself as a player. Collins created his profile and entered the video game’s draft.

He was selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th overall pick, which he captured with a photo and tweeted.

As he remembers, Collins that season with the Blazers on the video game won the Rookie of the Year.

“Possibly MVP,’’ Collins said.

Nearly five years later, Collins acknowledged that video games are easier than real basketball, but that didn’t stop him from aspiring to match his 2012 “award.”

“I don’t see why I cant be the Rookie of the Year,’’ Collins said.

While Olshey touted the Las Vegas-native as a franchise-level building block, he also cautioned that Collins might take some time to make an impact, especially on a deep  and experienced team like the Blazers.

Still, Olshey offered a glowing assessment.

“He’s the whole package,’’ Olshey said. “He’s a big-time rim protector, a great one-on-one defender, a big time post defender, he can really pass it … he can stretch the floor, score over both shoulders … he’s everything you look for in a big man in our league today.’’

**

By Thursday morning, Olshey and his staff knew they wanted Collins, but weren’t sure he was attainable. The Blazers owned the 15th, 20th and 26th picks and long knew Collins wouldn’t last until the 15th pick based in part by their inability to get him to Portland for a workout.

“We had no shot to get him in (to Portland for a workout),’’ Olshey said. “There was no way he was going to be there at 15. I think we got lucky he got to 10.’’

Olshey figured the key would be Sacramento at 5 and New York at 8. If the Kings didn’t get a point guard with the No. 5 pick, the conventional wisdom was they would use 10 to pick either Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith. But once Boston drafted Jayson Tatum at No. 3, it opened the way for the Kings to take point guard De’Aaron Fox at five, giving them flexibility to explore trades.

And when Ntilikina went to the Knicks at eight – not Malik Monk like some had projected – he knew it was time to pounce at the chance to get Collins.

So Olshey swapped 15 and 20 with the Kings for No. 10.

“He’s the only guy we would move both picks to get,’’ Olshey said.

In reality, Olshey’s anxiety about Collins started in March as Collins started taking on a bigger role in Gonzaga’s run through the conference and NCAA tournaments.

“He just kept playing better and better, and we kept getting more and more frustrated, knowing the more minutes he got, the more the rest of the country was going to catch up,’’ Olshey said.

In the end, Olshey followed his gut and that feeling from January, and got his man.

The plan is to play Collins as a backup to Jusuf Nurkic, and perhaps at times alongside Nurkic against bigger lineups.

Collins says he doesn’t want to pigeon-hole himself as a center or a power forward, he just wants to play, improve, and mostly, win. Other than that, he says he doesn’t know much about the team outside of the latest players who Olshey had a “feeling” about -- Lillard and McCollum.

“I just know they are a tough team and they don’t really back down from anybody – and those are traits I grew up with and those are part of my game as well,’’ Collins said. “I think … I can fit in perfectly there.’’

Bringing some 'dog' to the Blazers: Jordan Bell says he would be a good fit in Portland

Bringing some 'dog' to the Blazers: Jordan Bell says he would be a good fit in Portland

Playing last season in Eugene, Jordan Bell was able to catch just enough Trail Blazers games to know that he would be a good fit for Portland should they select him in Thursday’s NBA draft.

“I think I fit very well,’’ the Ducks’ forward said. “Obviously, the (Blazers’) bigs weren’t as tough this year, in my opinion, so I think I could bring that dog to this team. Be the tough guy on defense ... ancoring the defense.’’

Bell, who on Monday worked out for the Blazers, said he thinks he will be drafted anywhere from 18th to 31st. He said he knows that Indiana and Atlanta have shown interest, and if he could choose a dream scenario, he would be picked by one of the Los Angeles teams (his hometown) or the Blazers.

The Blazers own the 15th, 20th and 26th picks.

“That would be the best,’’ Bell said of the prospects of Portland selecting him. “I like the rain, the weather and the people around here are some of the nicest I’ve met. ‘’

Bell said Thursday was his 12th and final workout with NBA teams, and he rated his Blazers’ workout among his best. He competed against North Carolina wing Justin Jackson, Cal forward Ivan Rabb, Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu and international 7-footer Isaiah Hartenstein.

“I didn’t shoot it as well as I wanted to, but playing, it’s probably one of my best performances,’’ Bell said. “Just the way I played – matchups, the way I defended on the ball, switching, off the ball, the energy I played with … I just played within  myself.’’

Bell’s stock seems to be on the rise as Thursday’s draft nears, as he has gone from a mid-second round projection to as high as a late-first rounder in some mocks.

He boasts that his resume is unique in that it is straight-forward and no frills: He is a versatile defender, comfortable guarding anyone from a point guard to a center, and he will arrive to a team willing to do whatever it takes to win.

“I get more of a thrill blocking a shot than making a shot,’’ Bell said.

He said his approach and his style of play is molded largely by Golden State star Draymond Green.

“All my life people have said they don’t know what position I am, they don’t know what I do well ,’’ Bell said. “Same thing with (Draymond Green): you don’t know what position he is … 6-7, can guard 1 through 5 , a real defensive force, offensively whatever the team needs to win, finding shooters, understanding his role, knowing his personnel around him.’’

Bell, who is listed at 6-foot-9 and 224 pounds, said he has been working on the NBA corner three, but said he doesn’t expect to play outside of his talents after averaging 10.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks as a junior for the Ducks, when he was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

“I think a lot of people coming out of college were top scorer – averaging 20 and then they have to adapt to a role,’’ Bell said. “Me, exactly what I did in college is exactly what teams are going to ask me to do. They are not going to ask me to stop shooting the ball, because I already don’t shoot the ball. They are just going to ask me to keep defending, blocking shots and playing within myself.’’

Trail Blazers predraft primer: Sleepers, surprises and what's next

Trail Blazers predraft primer: Sleepers, surprises and what's next

Some insights and observations about the Trail Blazers’ predraft workouts after four of the six sessions have taken place at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin:

Top 3&D candidate visits

Saturday saw shooting guard Terrance Ferguson pass through, offering the Blazers a look at one of the younger and more intriguing prospects when it comes to upside.

Ferguson is a stringy 6-foot-7 wing known for his shooting and defense. He turned 19 in May and is coming off a professional season in Australia, where he played 15 minutes a game for the Adelaide 36ers.

His decision to eschew college – he was committed first to Alabama, then later Arizona – came in Portland, after a strong showing at the Nike Hoop Summit. After the game at the Moda Center he said he was approached by representatives from Adelaide, and made the decisions on the spot, which was motivated by the opportunity to get paid and provide for his family.

“It was a teaching point; definitely a teaching point,’’ Ferguson said Saturday of his season in Australia. “It wasn’t the best season ever, not even close. But I learned so much during my time over there – as a person on and off the court. Overall, it was great for me.’’

He averaged 4.6 points while shooting 38 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range. He said the biggest adjustment was playing against older and more physically mature players. Ferguson is listed at 184 pounds.

“The league was so physical,’’ Ferguson said. “Going there -- as you can see I have a skinny body -- but I tried to hold my ground every game, every practice.’’

It was, Ferguson said, a humbling experience, and one that he feels gives him a leg up on the incoming rookies.

“In the pros, you have ups and downs, and I learned that the hard way overseas,’’ Ferguson said. “Everyone thinks they are the man coming in,, but you know, it’s going to hit you at one point that you are not the man anymore. I learned that quick.’’

His reputation is that he is one of the better shooters in the draft, but on Saturday in the limited two-minute window the media was allowed to watch the workouts, Ferguson was decidedly off with his shot as he went around the 3-point arc.

“Every NBA team needs shooter ,’’ he said, noting that he is also a coachable player and a defender. “I think I can bring that to the table.’’

Ferguson is projected by most to be selected in the 20s. He said he was worked out for the Lakers, Pacers, Bulls, Nuggets and Blazers, and has workouts scheduled with Charlotte, Miami, Detroit, Brooklyn and Milwaukee.

Brooks likes Bacon

Former Oregon standout Dillon Brooks worked out for the Blazers on Saturday, which he said was his 10th workout.

Of all his workouts, he was asked if there was one player who opened his eyes and stood out to him. He didn’t hesitate with his answer, and blurted it out before the question was even finished.

“Dwayne Bacon,’’ Brooks said. “He’s a really, really great scorer. Smooth. I was guarding him the whole workout (Saturday) and he was getting up tough shots. He’s going to be a great player in the NBA.’’

Bacon is a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida State who declared for the NBA after his sophomore season when he averaged 17.2 points and 4.2 rebounds a game. He shot 45 percent from the field last season, including 33 percent from three-point range.

Of note: Bacon was a standout student as well. He was a member of Florida State’s Student Athlete Advisory Council and was one of just 10 freshmen to be named to the All-ACC Academic team. In high school, at Oak Hill Academy, he was named to the honor roll in both semesters.

Potential sleeper

A player whose stock has been rising has been Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans, and his Portland workout on June 8 might be adding to that reputation.

The media has not been allowed to view much when it comes to Portland’s workout, but on June 8, Evans put on probably the most impressive shooting display made available to the media.

With Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell cheering him on, and getting louder and more effusive with each make, Evans nearly ran the table on a drill where players must make three, three-pointers from one area before moving to a different position around the arc. Stone-faced, Evans made it through five of the six stations before missing.

Evans last season as a sophomore at Oklahoma State averaged 19.2 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range. He also played big against top competition: he scored 30 points against North Carolina and had 15 assists against Kansas and 12 assists against Michigan.

Draft-and-stash?

Of intrigue in this draft is how the Blazers will handle their three first-round picks (15, 20, 26). One of the options is to draft a European and let him stay overseas to develop while not occupying a roster spot or cap room, which is often called a draft-and-stash (overseas) approach.

A candidate for that tactic came through Portland on Friday in the form of 7-foot-1, 21-year-old center Anzejs Pasecniks.

Pasecniks is from Latvia but played for Gran Canaria in the Spanish ACB League, where last season he averaged 7.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 15 minutes a game. His sparse playing time is common for young players in the ACB League.

He is regarded as an exceptionally skilled big man, much like his countryman Kristaps Porzingis, who is a star for the Knicks, and on Friday he said he likes playing in the pick-and-roll.

If there is a downside, it’s his defense and his strength, which was exposed in the limited access the media watched on Friday. Ohio State center Trevor Thompson, who has 30-pounds on Pasecniks, lowered his shoulder and drove on the Latvian, who was unable to hold his ground. By the time Thompson reached the key, Pasecniks was flailing and was called for a foul.

When asked if he saw himself playing in the NBA next season or staying overseas, Pasecniks said he was open to either.

“It has been my dream to play here since I was 14,’’ Pasecniks said. “Every birthday when I blow the candles I wish to play in NBA someday. I hope to play next season,  but don’t have any problems staying (overseas) a couple more years.’’

Two workouts left – whose coming?

The Blazers have two workouts left – June 12 and June 19 – after seeing 25 players come through during the first four workouts.

CSN has confirmed that Oregon’s Jordan Bell will workout June 19 while agents have acknowledged that both Ivan Rabb (California) and Justin Jackson (North Carolina) have workouts schedule in Portland.

Of the players widely projected to be available to Portland, the only ones who haven’t come through town are Gonzaga power forward Zach Collins, Texas center Jarrett Allen, UCLA center Ike Anigbogu and center Isaiah Hartenstein, who played for Zalgiris overseas.

So far, of the 25 players brought into Portland, 11 have been guards, eight forwards, three centers and three wings.

Based on the latest mock draft from Draft Express, the top-rated prospect has been Mitchell, the Louisville guard, was is projected to go 12th. Also: Wake Forest forward John Collins (14), Indiana forward OG Anunoby (15), Creighton center Justin Patton (19), Duke forward Harry Giles (20), Ferguson (23), Kentucky forward Bam Adebayo (24), Pasecniks (26) and Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon (30).

Trail Blazers' workout - Justin Patton: A guard in a center's body

Trail Blazers' workout - Justin Patton: A guard in a center's body

TUALATIN – It was between his freshman and sophomore seasons in high school when Justin Patton sprouted from 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-9, a growth spurt that he says left him clumsy and awkward, but also with a lasting trait: That of a ball-handling guard.

Today, Patton is nearly 7-feet, and one of the top prospects at center in the June 22 draft. His first visit and workout with a team was Thursday in Tualatin at the Trail Blazers’ practice facility, where he offered a glimpse at what he thinks is a growing trend in the NBA: an agile and passing big man.

“I feel like it’s changing,’’ Patton said of the role of an NBA center. “It’s moving in my direction, where you can have a passing big, who spreads the floor and can run.’’

Patton’s direction, of course, was established from his early years in Omaha, Neb., when he entered Omaha North as a 6-foot-1 guard. By the time he left Creighton after two seasons (one a redshirt year), he was listed at 6-foot-11, 229 pounds.

“I was a guard growing up … and I still had the tools,’’ Patton said. “And I’m always trying to rekindle them when I work out.’’

Last season at Creighton, he averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 25 minutes a game. He shot 67.6 percent from the field, the highest field goal percentage by any freshman from a major conference in NCAA history. 

Judging from his workout schedule, it appears Patton is targeted for a mid-first round selection. After Thursday’s workout in Portland, he said he will audition for Denver (No. 13), Detroit (No. 12), Charlotte (No.11), Miami (No. 14) and Oklahoma City (No. 21).

The Blazers own the 15th, 20th and 26th picks, and Patton said he is more concerned with fit than how high he is drafted.

“I want to be in the right place, so it doesn’t matter how high or how low,’’ he said. “The main thing is player development – not only on the court, but off the court. I want to learn how to be an NBA player, how to manage my day-to-day life. So whoever can help me grow as a basketball player and a person is the perfect place for me.’’

Patton, who turns 20 next Wednesday, comes from an interesting background. His mother is a marathon runner and his father is 7-foot-3 and 360 pounds.

“So hopefully, one day I fill out a bit,’’ Patton said.

During the limited amount of his workout the media was allowed to watch, Patton displayed a smooth shooting touch from 15 to 17 feet. Earlier in the workout, he went 1-on-1 against Duke’s Harry Giles.

His smoothness, he said, was a long way from five years ago, during his eight-inch growth spurt over a summer.

“It hurt a little bit,’’ he said of the growth spurt. “My knees hurt, I slept a lot and ate a lot. I went through a clumsy stage because I wasn’t used to my body. You could touch me and I would fall over. It was hard. But I got used to it, and now I’m here.’’

Blazers' draft workouts start with a bang with Wake Forest's John Collins

Blazers' draft workouts start with a bang with Wake Forest's John Collins

TUALATIN – One of the bigger names expected to workout for the Trail Blazers kicked off the team’s draft workouts on Wednesday when Wake Forest forward John Collins headlined a group of six prospects.

Collins, a 6-foot-10 big man, said he is intent on showing NBA teams that he is a power forward even though he spent most of his two seasons at Wake Forest playing center.

Collins, who attempted only one three-pointer in his two seasons in college while playing mostly with his back to the basket, said he has an outside game that can extend to the three-point line.

“I am a four,’’ Collins said, later explaining that he played center because it was best for his team. “I think I will be effective at the next level at the four position, and I think teams are starting to see that.’’

Collins is expected to be one of the players the Blazers are targeting for the 15th overall pick, but in many mock drafts he is projected to go sooner than 15. The Blazers also own the 20th and 26th pick in the June 22 draft.

The Blazers were the fourth team Collins has worked out for after Sacramento and Denver and the Lakers flew him in. Sacramento owns the fifth and 10th picks while Denver holds the 13th.

Collins said he is scheduled to workout for about five or six other teams.

On Wednesday, Collins competed against UCLA forward TJ Leaf – who is projected to be a late first-round pick – as a host of Blazers players, coaches and executives watched.

On hand was Blazers’ vice chairman Bert Kolde, owner Paul Allen’s right-hand man, as well as players Damian Lillard, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis, Jake Layman, Pat Connaughton and Tim Quarterman.

Coach Terry Stotts and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey directed the workout, but did not speak to the media before leaving for lunch with the prospects.

Collins, who will turn 20 in September, was a breakout player for Wake Forest this season, posting averages of 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. He owned the No. 1 player-efficiency rating (PER) in all of college basketball last season.

Most of his offensive work was done inside, but he insisted that he has been showing teams he has more range.

“I want to show scouts and GMs that I can shoot the three,’’ Collins said. “I definitely think I can shoot the three – the jump shot has always been there. I’m extremely comfortable around the perimeter.’’

Collins has a Northwest background – he lived outside of Tacoma for about eight or nine years while his mother was stationed at McChord Air Force Base – before returning to West Palm Beach, Florida to be closer to family, who hails from the Virgin Islands.

He talked about his love of history and different cultures, the latter an interest that was on display in tattoos over his shoulders, biceps and forearms. His artwork showed influences that varied from Polynesian, to Egyptian to Native American to Asian.

“I like different cultures,’’ he said.

Whether Collins will get a chance to experience the Blazers’ culture will likely depend on whether he is still available when the 15th pick arrives. As he tells it, he had a good showing Wednesday to convince the Blazers’ think tank he is the right pick..

“I definitely think I played well – I’m a perfectionist, so I always get nitpicky about things here and there, but I think I had a great showing today,’’ Collins said.’’

Notes: Leaf, who could be a target at 20 or 26, said he thinks his game translates to the NBA. “With the shorter shot clock and how NBA is and the game is faster, it plays right into my hands,’’ Leaf said. “At UCLA we played really fast and were able to move the ball really quickly. I think that’s how I’m able to play -- stretch the floor, be able to attack bigger defenders and be able to pass -- I think it favors the NBA game now.’’ Leaf said this was his sixth workout for an NBA team.

Also working out were guards Sindarious Thornwell from South Carolina, Paris Bass from Detroit Mercy, Antonio Blakeney from LSU and Josh Hart from Villanova. Thornwell and Hart are projected to be mid-to-late second round picks.

Blazers workouts: Jordan Bell among up to 50 prospects scheduled for draft workouts

Blazers workouts: Jordan Bell among up to 50 prospects scheduled for draft workouts

Former Oregon Ducks stars Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks will be among the players scheduled to work out for the Trail Blazers this month before the June 22 NBA Draft.

Workouts will start June 7th  and conclude on June 19.

The Blazers have been attending Agent Pro Days in various cities, but have yet to hold individual workouts.

Brooks will workout for the Blazers on June 10 and Bell on June 19. The Blazers are also scheduled to workout former Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey.

CSNNW has also confirmed other workout participants: North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson, Creighton center Justin Patton, Wake Forest forward John Collins, California forward Ivan Rabb, South Carolina guard Sindarious Thornwell and guard Terrance Ferguson, who last season eschewed a commitment to play at Arizona to play professionally in Australia.

Among the more intriguing of the confirmed prospects are Patton, an athletic and efficient 7-foot center who left Creighton after his redshirt freshman season, and Collins, a 6-foot-10, 225 pounder who left Wake Forest after his sophomore season, when he averaged 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. The Blazers are also expected to attend Patton's Pro Day workout on Friday. 

Also, Ferguson, 19, is a 6-foot-7 shooting guard who averaged 4.6 points for Adelaide in Australia, where he elected to play after making commitments out of high school to play for Alabama, and then Arizona. He is regarded as one of the draft’s better shooters and he is also considered a team-oriented player who is adept at passing.

Anywhere from 35 to 50 players are expected to workout for the Blazers, who own three first round picks: 15, 20 and 26.

A source said all of the team’s targets have committed to a workout in Tualatin. The workouts will be June 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 19th. 

Gonzaga's Zach Collins has 'funny' encounter with Trail Blazers at NBA Combine

Gonzaga's Zach Collins has 'funny' encounter with Trail Blazers at NBA Combine

CHICAGO – Gonzaga center Zach Collins met with 13 teams at the NBA Combine, but it was his first meeting – with the Trail Blazers – that left an impression.

“It was kind of funny because Portland actually just sent out their team psychologist, and no one else from the staff was there,’’ Collins said. “The lady gave me a computer and I took a personality test, kind of, and she just analyzed who I was as a person, and that was it.’’

The Blazers since 2007 have employed Dana Sinclair as their performance psychologist, and her biggest role usually comes at the Combine, where she adds another layer to the team’s research on prospects.

What would Sinclair find with the 7-foot Collins, who became Gonzaga’s first one-and-done player to enter the draft?

“I’m just a regular guy who has an absolute obsession with the game of basketball, and a passion to play,’’ Collins said. “I’m not going to be satisfied once I get to the league. I want to be an All-Star. I want to win championships.’’

Collins averaged 10 points and 5.9 rebounds in 17 minutes while helping Gonzaga reach the NCAA final. He is projected in the 10-to-15 range of the first round. Portland owns the 15th, 20th and 26th picks in the June 22 draft.

Collins says he believes his versatility – both offensively and defensively – set him apart from a field of centers that include Texas freshman Jarrett Allen and Creighton freshman Justin Patton.

“The fact that my skillset involves me playing on both ends of the floor – shooting, guarding the perimeter, things like that,’’ Collins said.

He said he has always been an inside-out player, meaning he first likes to play inside, but can contribute on the perimeter, but he said one of his draws should be his ability to play in any system.

“I like to run. But I like to play in half court as well,’’ Collins said. “Running plays, running pick and rolls, I love fast breaks too. That’s why I think I’m unique in this draft because I can play multiple types of styles.’’

Neil Olshey on Blazers' draft: Team has 'luxury' of going young or trading for experience

Neil Olshey on Blazers' draft: Team has 'luxury' of going young or trading for experience

CHICAGO – Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey on Thursday was a guest on NBA TV, during which he answered questions about the Blazers’ approach at the NBA Combine and the franchise’s strategy heading into the June 22 draft.

A transcript of Olshey’s interview with Scott Howard-Cooper:

Q: What are looking for when here?

Olshey: Here it is more about confirmation than evaluation. Look, a lot of the top 20 guys aren’t here but there are still guys we have to evaluate in terms of things we can’t see when they are with their college programs. We are getting the metrics, the metrics testing, the interviews are critical in terms of getting to know these guys. We haven’t really spoken to them in person. It’s nice we are getting more guys participating in the 5-on-5; it allows us to see them later in the year, what they have done with their body, maybe they played a different position on their college team than they are playing out here … it gives us a chance to see them play more our style of basketball. Anytime you can get in the gym with guys, or get to be around them, it makes our process easier because we have a bigger sample size.

Q: Does your gut tell you you won’t have three rookies in camp come October?

Olshey: (laughs) No, it doesn’t, really. Look, we’ve been rebuilding the organization based on Damian Lillard’s timeline and we’ve been lucky enough to be a playoff team in both of those years.  So, look, it’s whatever the best decision long term for the franchise is: If that’s three rookies, it’s three rookies. If that’s an aggregation of picks to go get an impact player, then that’s what it will be. We have a very aggressive owner, we are very lucky to have one that doesn’t shy away from a high payroll; he loves young talent and in a market like Portland, where we have been most successful, has been drafts and player development.

Q: What are your thoughts on using picks to get veteran player who can help now opposed to rookies who might take time?

Olshey: I think we have the luxury of doing either. We had the youngest team in the league last year. We had the youngest team in the playoffs for the second year in a row. We are all on a timeline with young stars like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who haven’t even entered their prime yet. So we can be more patient. I think we have a longer runway, so it’s not a matter of the urgency. All of our players are under long-term contracts, or we control their rights. So we are building long term. The end game is to hopefully win a championship in Portland. If we can accelerate that process because we’ve got the three picks in a very deep draft, where these picks are coveted and we can get a player on a timeline from a team that is maybe going in another direction, we will absolutely push our chips in and do that. But if it’s about finding more stars to join our young guys with Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic, and they are out here (at the Combine), then that’s what we will do. 

Oregon's Jordan Bell looking for right fit as much as high pick in NBA Draft

Oregon's Jordan Bell looking for right fit as much as high pick in NBA Draft

CHICAGO – It was during an interview with an NBA team this week when Jordan Bell said he became emotional, his past at the University of Oregon haunting him again.

Over two days in Chicago, he was interviewed by nine teams: Detroit, Brooklyn, Washington, Miami, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and the LA Clippers.

One of the teams – Bell wouldn’t reveal which one – showed him video of the deciding plays in the Ducks’ Final Four loss to North Carolina – two offensive rebounds off missed free throws by the Tar Heels in the final seconds, which Bell in a tear-stained postgame interview blamed on himself.

“One of the meetings they had a video of the last two box outs and I got a little emotional just thinking about it again,’’ Bell said. “I don’t think it’s something I will ever get over. It is something that will always be in the back of my mind.’’

If it seems like a cruel exercise to throw at a 22-year-old kid, Bell didn’t take it that way. After the video stopped, Bell said the team asked how he learned from it, how he got over it and what he took from the experience.

Emotional, Bell said he answered like he plays: to the point and with feeling.

“Teams have been trying to get to know me as a person, and see who I am outside of basketball,’’ he said.

What he hopes they discover is a person who has found himself, which he says carries over to the basketball court.

While he says he patterns his game after Golden State’s Draymond Green and Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Bell says he is a defense-first player who will know how to embrace his role at the NBA level.

“I’m not someone who has to go from being a scorer in college to trying to adapt to a new role,’’ Bell said. “The person I’ve been playing in college is exactly the person they will ask me to be in the NBA.’’

That role, Bell figures, should be in demand in this draft.

“I think the need in the NBA right now is definitely defense,’’ Bell said. “Everybody has pretty much been a scoring. I’ve been watching basketball, and getting to 100 was a big thing, now it’s 120, 110. I figure there is definitely a need for defenders.’’

He says he has been studying noted defenders like Green and Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson, and their skills call to his love of the game.

“I just get a thrill,’’ Bell says of playing and watching defense. “I understand blocking shots is, to me, more important than getting a layup. Getting a layup is two points, but blocking shots is minus two points, and you are putting a fear into their hearts. Like, if you are in there, and they miss a layin, you might not block it, but I know I effected it in some kind of way.’’

After the NBA Combine ends this week, Bell says he has workouts scheduled with Indiana, San Antonio, Houston, the Lakers, Utah, Boston, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Golden State, Detroit and Atlanta.

Most mock drafts have Bell projected to be a late first round, early second round pick.

“With me, my main focus is to make sure I go to the right team,’’ Bell said. “I don’t want to go 15th and go to a team that will probably have me go to the D-League or something like that. I’d rather go mid-second round to a team that has a need for what I do.’’

Cal forward Ivan Rabb has unique connection to Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard

Cal forward Ivan Rabb has unique connection to Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard

CHICAGO – When Ivan Rabb was in his youth, his family moved to a new neighborhood in Oakland. As it turns out, living in the house directly across the street was a kid named Damian Lillard.

“I’ve been knowing him for a time,’’ Rabb said of the Trail Blazers’ star. “And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten to know him a little more.’’

Rabb hopes that connection deepens next month by becoming Lillard’s teammate. Rabb, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Cal, could be on the radar of a Blazers’ team that is looking for depth at power forward and has three first round picks (15, 20, 26) in the June 22 NBA draft.

The Blazers, who are tentatively scheduled to start draft workouts around June 7, have yet to book Rabb for a trip to Portland according to agent Aaron Goodwin. But according to one source, it is likely Rabb will be on the Blazers’ workout schedule after agents finalize their clients’ travel agendas following Tuesday’s draft lottery.

One thing is certain: whichever teams Rabb works out for, they will likely see a hard worker.

Rabb said he is being trained by Chris Farr and Anthony Eggleton, the same coaches who put Lillard through his grueling predraft workouts before he was drafted sixth overall in 2012. Those workouts spawned the four-part YouTube mini-series “License to Lillard.”

“The main thing is his work ethic,’’ Rabb said of Lillard. “Coach Farr always talks about how hard he worked and (Coach Eggleton) talked about how he was focused and dedicated to everything they told him to do. So that’s something I’m trying to emulate. Why not? He’s doing great things and I want to be on his level one day.’’

Rabb feels his own level has elevated in the past year, when he elected to forego what many projected to be a lottery selection and instead stay at Cal for his sophomore season.

“I thought I needed it,’’ Rabb said. “I thought it was very mature for me to go back. The plan is to stick in the league for a long time, not get there as soon as possible, so I feel like I made the best decision for me. I feel like I got better.’’

After averaging 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman, Rabb this season averaged 14 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting 48 percent from the field.

While Rabb might have questions about the transition to the NBA regarding his experience or his his outside shot, he said he has no reservations about his top skill: Rebounding.

“I know at this point right now, what can translate is rebounding the ball,’’ Rabb said. “I know I can hit offensive glass really well … everybody has to have their niche coming into the league and rebounding is something I can hang my hat on. Coaches know if I’m coming into the game, I’m going for rebounds.’’

He said some of his offensive game was thwarted at Cal because he was often double-teamed in the post, and the right play was to pass to the open teammate. Sometimes, that meant the only way he could score was to attack rebounds.

“I just know I want the ball. Sometimes I wasn’t getting the ball inside so I was like, ‘Let me go find a way to score the ball’ … and I would go grab it,’’ Rabb said.

Since the season has ended, Rabb said he has been encouraged by his offensive growth. He says the range on his shot is expanding.

“I feel like I own everything inside the 3-point line and I’m shooting corner 3s really well,’’ said Rabb, who went 8-for-20 from the college three-point line last season.

Rabb said he doesn’t want to project himself as a three-point shooter yet, but it’s something he is working on.

“I feel like I’m on right track, but I’m not in a rush to get out there (and shoot threes) if it’s not my game,’’ he said. “I’m trying to master what I have first, and then build off that.’’

While Rabb says his game is becoming more polished by the day, one thing hasn’t changed: his confidence, which he says is rooted in his Oakland upbringing.

“I’m confident when I’m on the floor,’’ he said. “I feel like I carry myself differently. I don’t get rattled. I play with a chip on my shoulder and don’t let anybody punk me.’’

He says he molds himself after four players – Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett – but he knows if he comes to Portland, there will be another guy who will go a long ways in shaping him.

It’s the same kid who lived across the street when he was in middle school: Lillard.

“I feel like him being there, he will push me to make sure I succeed,’’ Rabb said. “He would be a great mentor to have.’’