Hawks: For John Collins, shooting is not the most important improvement

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After being suspended for 25 games at the beginning of the season, John Collins has come back with a vengeance, continuing a constant upward trajectory throughout his young career. He was an impressive rookie, one of the breakout players of the 2018-19 season, and now has worked his way to becoming a nightly double-double, averaging 21 points and 10.2 rebounds per game on the season with efficiency few can replicate. He has an effective field goal percentage of 62.3% and a true shooting percentage of 64.8%. Those are utterly ridiculous statistics.

But if you watch a ton of Hawks games, you know Collins is not merely your stand under the hoop guy. He is a budding star because of the incredible versatility he brings on a nightly basis. The talk of the town lately has been his ability to shoot the three-ball. While he is a poster-izer that has improved his isolation game significantly this season, he is also shooting 38.3% from beyond the arc, which is now tied with Kevin Huerter for the best clip on the roster. In February, Collins is 17-for-38 from deep — a 44.7% mark.

“I can attribute it to me being in a rhythm,” said Collins.

He also credited his recent success as a sharpshooter to better shot selection.

“I have been taking good shots, I haven’t been trying to force or shoot outside of my comfort zone,” said the Hawks power forward.

During his suspension, Collins “had a lot of time and solitude to think, and then watch and live, sleep and breathe basketball” — mainly working with assistant coach Chris Jent. During this time, he spent countless hours improving his outside shot. However, this is not the area Collins is looking to improve upon the most.

“I felt like I was able to shoot the basketball last year. Obviously, I am at a better clip this year, but I feel like I have always been able to shoot. I am still trying to get better defensively, and I think becoming a leader is the next step for me as well.”

Collins has undoubtedly made strides defensively this season, with the highest defensive win share on the team at .059. This is more impressive when you consider that the Hawks have asked a lot of him on the defensive end, guarding both power forwards and centers at times. Nevertheless, he has bettered his defensive rating from 115 to 112. If he can continue to grow in this department, he will be in the conversation with the best power forwards in the league. Head Coach Lloyd Pierce already thinks Collins will be the team’s second All-Star next season and don’t mistake John Collins for a guy with low confidence, he thinks so too:

“Honestly, without the suspension I feel like I would definitely be in contention for that All-Star spot this year. Be that as it may, I will continue to improve and get better at my craft, I think I can definitely compete with the elite bigs in this league”.

Some have questioned whether the Hawks will balk at giving Collins a max contract down the road, as he is eligible for an extension this summer and becomes a restricted free agent the next. The way this young player has continued to develop, there is zero question in my mind that he will be worth every penny for Atlanta as the Robin to Trae Young for years to come. At 22, Collins still has a ton of time to develop as a leader, as he previously mentioned, and his experience during this rebuild will go a long way in doing so.

Others have questioned the fit with Clint Capela due to the former Rockets’ big man being a pick and roll offensive player. This should be entirely disregarded. Collins can still play pick and roll, score in the post, and shoot from outside. He is as versatile as they come for a big man. In fact, I think it will help Collins tap into his full potential. Instead of having to worry about guarding opposing fives, Capela can take the load off him and allow him to play his inside/outside style of game.

It reminds me a bit of the move Mark Cuban made when the Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA Finals. Cuban traded for big man Tyson Chandler who brought a defensive presence and identity the team lacked. Most importantly, he did the dirty work for Dirk Nowitzki, allowing him to primarily focus on opposing power forwards and playing his natural game. The result? A Cinderella Story championship. The Hawks may not be winning the NBA Finals next season, but I can foresee a similar impact from Capela.

The real question you have to ask yourself is, how much better will Collins be next season? He is in elite company with the marks he has been able to put up this season at his young age, and that is after missing 25 games of development. We could be in for an astronomical 2010-21 from Collins, and that would go a long way in this Hawks team sniffing an Eastern Conference playoff birth.

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