First and foremost, congratulations to John Collins on being drafted 19th overall by the Atlanta Hawks last night! I may be slightest biased, but I think the Hawks got an absolute steal in JC at 19. Having a player drafted in the first round who goes on to do great things in the NBA can be great for school name recognition and recruiting, so Collins can continue to help the Deacs even though he is no longer wearing the black and gold. So now that’s he on an NBA team, what can we expect to see from him next season?
From what I can see, the Hawks have started a rebuilding process. Atlanta could potentially lose free agents Ersan Ilyasova, Kris Humphries, Mike Muscala, and Paul Millsap, who recently declined his player option to become a free agent, from the front court of last year’s squad. The Hawks also recently traded Dwight Howard to the Hornets for Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli. I don’t know what will happen in free agency, but the Hawks could potentially be very thin (current roster includes just Miles Plumlee inside) in the front court next season. Basically, the point here is that John Collins should definitely get plenty of minutes next year.
The good thing for Collins is that the Hawks do return a very solid young point guard in Dennis Schröder. Last season, Schröder averaged almost 18 points and a little over 6 assists per game. He is a great pick and roll point guard, attacking the defense and forcing them to commit before deciding to score himself or dump the ball off to the open man. Since it seems that Schröder is the guy the Hawks have decided to build around (he signed a 4-year, $70 million extension at the start of last season), Atlanta’s offense will almost definitely run exclusively through him next season. That means Collins will probably do a lot more screen setting and rolling/popping than posting up. With his vertical and athleticism, Collins should definitely be a threat on the roll. If the shooting ability we saw in his workouts translates into games, Collins would be a very versatile screen setter in which the defense doesn’t know if he is going to roll for a dunk or pop for a jump shot.
Outside of the pick and roll, the Hawks also utilized some iso-style post up plays for Paul Millsap, who had a 24.4% usage rate last season. While Collins is certainly not yet the NBA player that Millsap is, hopefully the Hawks allow him some similar opportunities in the post.
The one downside of the Hawks lack of depth inside is on the defensive side of the court. Collins’ current weakness on the defensive side of the ball will be a lot harder to hide without a guy like Howard or Millsap behind him to help in the paint. It won’t be very hard for teams to isolate and take advantage of Collins in the post or the pick and roll, which could definitely be a hindrance to Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer giving him a large amount of playing time. Budenholzer is typically pretty good at getting his teams to play defense (Hawks were 9th in opp. ppg and tied for 1st in opp. FG% last season), which should certainly help Collins develop his ability to defend.
All in all, Atlanta is a solid place for Collins to land. He should get plenty of playing time next season, and he gets to play for a great coach in Budenzholzer (Spurs assistant from 1996-2013) who likes to move the ball around in order to get easy shots (some might called it “Spurs like”). I can’t wait to see what Collins does at the next level and will certainly be rooting for him in every game he isn’t playing my Hornets.
How do you think Collins will do in the NBA next season?