John Collins Is Soaring For The Atlanta Hawks

— November 27th 2017

Compared to other rookies, John Collins is not a household name in the NBA, but he has nonetheless been outstanding in his short campaign with the Atlanta Hawks.

By Noah Shatzer

Through the first quarter of the 2017-18 NBA season, it appears the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year Award race has already been wrapped up by Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons. While Simmons is leaps and bounds above his fellow first-year players, the rest of the rookie competition below him is teeming with talented young players that have shown star potential in the young NBA season. Rookies like Lonzo Ball, Lauri Markkanen, Kyle Kuzma and Jayson Tatum have garnered most of the media’s attention with their play, but one of the league’s best rookies has been playing well under the radar for the Atlanta Hawks.

The Atlanta Hawks drafted power forward/center John Collins out of Wake Forest University with the 19th pick in last year’s NBA draft. During his two years at Wake Forest, Collins blossomed into one of the most efficient offensive talents in the country, averaging 11.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on a true shooting percentage of 67 percent and finishing with the highest PER (35.9) in all of college basketball. In his rookie season with the Hawks, the forward has been putting up numbers very identical to his college stats, producing 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game with a true shooting percentage of 61 percent. Among all rookies, Collins ranks seventh in total points with 212 points, third in rebounds with 135 boards and is tied for first in blocks with 17 rejections. He also leads all rookies who have played over 100 minutes this season and aren’t named Ben Simmons (21.4) in PER at 18.4.

One area where Collins sticks out among his fellow rookies is offensive rebounding, where he ranks first with 57 offensive boards grabbed this season, 12 more than second-ranked Simmons. Among rookies who average 10 minutes per game, Collins ranks first in offensive rebounding percentage, pulling down 16 percent of the Hawks’ offensive rebounds when he’s on the floor. Despite having an undersized 6-foot-11 wingspan complementing his 6-foot-10, 235-pound frame, the former Demon Deacon uses his athleticism and smarts to place himself in the perfect position to grab offensive rebounds.

Earlier in the year when the Hawks defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-115, Collins finished with 13 rebounds on the night, six of which were offensive rebounds. The forward has serious bounce and a quick motor, which often allows him to out-jump his opponents, grab his own misses at the rim and keep possessions alive.

Despite missing the layup out of the pick-and-roll play, Collins quickly regathers and rips down the offensive rebound before Kevin Love or Jae Crowder even have a chance to go after the board.

Collins also does a very good job at following his teammates’ misses out of the pick-and-roll when he is the roll man. After setting the pick for Hawks guard Marco Belinelli, the forward follows Belinelli to the rim and places himself in the perfect position to pluck the offensive rebound and score with the easy put back.

The Wake Forest product has also proven to be a reliable finisher in the restricted area, where he has attempted 74 percent of his shots. Collins attempts 6.3 shots per game within the restricted area, which ranks him around players such as Los Angeles Clippers’ All-Star center DeAndre Jordan (5.9 per game), Portland Trail Blazer rising star Jusuf Nurkic (6.1 per game), and Philadelphia’s Messiah Joel Embiid (6.7 per game). Among players who attempt at least five restricted area shots per game, the Hawks rookie ranks ninth in restricted area field goal percentage at 69.9 percent. Collins ranks above notable paint finishers such as Jordan (66.3 percent), New Orleans Pelicans bruiser DeMarcus Cousins (63.6 percent) and the Detroit Pistons’ talented center Andre Drummond (62.3 percent), which isn’t bad company for the rook to find himself in.

Because of his finishing ability around the rim, Collins excels as the roll man in the pick-and-roll, often finishing his rolls to the rim with ferocious dunks. In this play against the San Antonio Spurs, Collins sets a strong screen for Dennis Schroder. This forces LaMarcus Aldridge to slide over to prevent an easy look at the rim for Schroder, leaving Collins wide open and cleared for takeoff to finish with the thunderous two-handed slam.

Collins also has soft and sturdy hands and can catch alley-oops with the best of them. He has only failed to convert on one alley-oop so far this season. The rookie knows exactly where to position himself out of the pick-and-roll for the easy oop at the rim, as seen in this clip from the Hawks’ recent loss to the Pistons.

Plus, Collins is one of the few players in the NBA who is bold enough to rock the old-school short shorts with the long socks, which I respect.

Chase Hughes on Twitter

Hawks rookie John Collins might have the shortest short-shorts in the NBA. Oubre can’t even compete with them.

It’s still early in the season, but Collins recently earned the starting power forward spot for the Atlanta Hawks and is shaping up to be one of the steals of the loaded 2017 NBA Draft. He already has NBA athleticism and rebounding abilities, and has shown flashes of a legitimate jump shot that could eventually extend out to the three-point line. Collins is just 20 years old and will continue to grow on the Hawks, who have no chances of making the playoffs even in a weaker Eastern Conference. The team would be best suited to focus on developing the young talent it has acquired over the past few years.

Despite his solid start to the season, the young Hawk will likely be left out of the Rookie of the Year conversation due to his team’s poor record and the fact that Ben Simmons is blowing the rest of the competition out of the water. However, within the next few seasons, there’s a good chance NBA experts and fans will be looking back at the 2017 Draft and wondering how John Collins dropped to the 19th pick.

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