When the Hawks began their rebuild in 2017, no one really knew when the first key piece would come along. Luckily, they only had to wait a few months, selecting John Collins with the 19th pick in the 2017 draft. The Wake Forrest product has improved in every year since; now, the question on everyone’s mind is if the Hawks will re-sign Collins. His future in Atlanta is hanging in the balance. Could he really be worth a max contract, or will he receive closer to the $90 million deal the Hawks offered last offseason?
What worked well
This is what Collins does best. He dunks. Collins’ best attribute coming out of Wake Forrest was his athleticism, and it hasn’t disappointed. This season, he converted 86% of his dunks on 128 attempts. If you watched the Hawks for more than four possessions, then you know they loved the pick-and-roll this year. The combination of Young and Collins is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses because they complement each other so well.
Collins has evolved as a player over the years, another reason to believe he will only get better during his second contract. His percentage of shot attempts that are dunks has decreased each season. 27% of his shots were dunks as a rookie, which went down to 22% in his second and third seasons. However, this past year, only 15% of his total shots were dunks. For the second year in a row, JC shot 40% from three, which was better than several of the games’ best shooters. He’s already one of the league’s best shooting big men.
When doing my research for this article, this is what surprised me the most. During the regular season, Collins shot 75% from 3 during clutch time, according to NBA.com. This also translated to the playoffs. The play that stands out the most came from Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals when Collins hit a near side three in front of the Bucks’ bench to make it a one-point game. Collins also shot his best from the floor when there were less than three minutes in the quarter, shooting 59% from the floor and almost 53%(!) from three-point land.
What needs to be improved
With Collins on the court this past year, the Hawks’ offensive rating was six points higher, and in the playoffs, he was even more integral to the team’s offense. Atlanta had an offensive rating of 114 with him on the floor, which fell to 104 when he was on the bench. However, he had trouble staying on the floor consistently in the playoffs. Collins committed 4+ fouls in 44% of playoff games, fouling out once. Given how Collins plays, he will get fouls, but he has to be under more control to stay on the court in the most pivotal moments.
The $100M+ elephant in the room is what the Hawks will do with John Collins this offseason. They could let him walk. They could pull their best Godfather impression and give him an offer he can’t refuse. They could also work out a sign and trade. If I’m Travis Schlenk, I’m bringing back my hardworking, improving, energetic 23-year-old forward, who I got as a STEAL in the 2017 draft. JC has been a great Hawk in all aspects, which will make it even more difficult to let him walk.