I want to start by clarifying that I’m by no means implying that Collins has played poorly to this point. After all, he’s currently posting elite efficiency numbers offensively, averaging 13 PPG over the playoffs, with shooting splits of 54/44/93. However, the problem with Collins isn’t how well he’s shooting; it’s how few shots he’s taking.
With De’Andre Hunter now out for the remainder of the season, someone on the team needs to step into that third option offensively with the starters. However, the issue with Collins is that while he’s a great offensive player, he does struggle at times to create his own shot. He’s definitely closer to a true center than he is a wing, even if his game does have some blend of the two. This means that the Hawks have to make a more concerted effort to get him involved by running plays specifically for him.
Again though, while Collins is a great standstill shooter, he’s not necessarily elite at shooting on the move. Therefore, running him off screens and asking him to catch and shoot isn’t very realistic either. So what can the Hawks do to maximize his skills? For one, they can play him more at the five with Gallo on the floor instead of Capela, allowing Collins to be the primary roller. In Game 2 against Philly, Gallo-Collins lineups posted a +9 point differential and a 120 offensive rating.
Having Collins get back to rim running and making some plays on the short roll is a recipe for offensive success. While this does take Capela off the court, it’s worth noting that Gallinari has been straight-up better against Joel Embiid than Clint. Now Gallo isn’t great on him, of course, but his presence gives Collins the spacing needed to get inside and score where he’s comfortable. Whereas with Capela on the floor, Collins can sometimes get lost offensively and be relegated to spot-up shooting, despite him being able to do so much more on that end.
Another way to get Collins involved can be with post-ups against smaller defenders. This season Collins scored a little over one point per possession on post-ups, putting him in the top third in the league in efficiency. With Harris being his primary defender in this series, it’s going to be difficult to expect Collins to post-up with that level of efficiency early in the shot clock. However, if the Hawks can find a way to get Collins switched onto Curry, Maxey, or whoever the Sixers small guard on the court is at the time, he may be able to find some success.
Even if they don’t always lead to points, Collins’ rolls, drives, and post ups put pressure on the rim that no one other than Capela and Young can provide for Atlanta. And with Capela currently being a non-factor offensively due to Joel Embiid’s presence, it’s up to Collins to give the Hawks that interior scoring threat.
Atlanta is primarily a jump-shooting team, which is fine! However, someone other than Trae has to bend the defense to give those shooters open looks, and while Collins can’t do it off the dribble, the above adjustments do allow him to have that same impact.
With all that being said, while a lot of Collins’ production is tightly tied to how many plays he has run for him, he needs to be able to make plays on his own to show he’s truly worth the max money he’s seeking. As mentioned before, De’Andre Hunter is done for the rest of the postseason, and while Kevin Huerter has certainly stepped up his game to help Atlanta deal with that loss, they’ll need their impending max contract free agent to do his part down the stretch. John Collins was my X factor pick in the Knicks series, and I still think he can be the second-best player on this team when he’s at his best. These next few games will loom large one way or another this summer for Collins.