Over the next several days I’ll review each Hawks player that was on the roster at the end of the season, in descending order of minutes played.
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It remains to be seen what kind of NBA player John Collins will be as a finished product. But, based on his performance as a rookie, Collins could generate excellent value for the Hawks as the No. 19 overall pick of the 2017 draft.
According to Nate Silver’s study of NBA drafts from 1985-2014, players selected No. 19 overall produced an average of 19 Basketball Reference Win Shares over their first five seasons. Collins earned 5.4 WS as a rookie.
Collins was a rotation player for the Hawks from the first game and eventually became a starter through injury and attrition. Collins’ production and efficiency compared favorably to NBA rookies who played at least 1,000 minutes, with high rates of turnovers and fouls as the only major weak points in his statistical profile.
John Collins rookie ranks (min. 1,000 minutes played)
Collins used his superlative athleticism and high effort to score efficiently around the basket. Opponents had trouble keeping away from the rim on cuts, rolls and putbacks: Collins ranked in the 59th percentile or better in points scored per possession on those play types, according to Synergy Sports.
Collins immediately established himself as a top offensive rebounder: his offensive rebounding percentage ranked in the 73rd percentile among bigs, according to Cleaning the Glass. Collins is a quick jumper who has good instincts finding the ball off the rim and keeping it alive with multiple efforts.
Collins’ prowess on putbacks is a major reason why he converted 59.5 percent of his field-goal attempts at the rim, per CTG, to rank in the 82nd percentile among bigs. Collins shot 59.8 percent on 2-point field goals with just 171 of his 358 field-goal attempts coming from outside of four feet.
Collins converted 123 dunks on the season, 12th-most in the league according to Basketball Reference. But Collins’ tendency to go for too many spectacular dunks is reflected in his 82.6 shooting percentage on dunk attempts, the second-worst mark among players with 50 or more dunks (Russell Westbrook converted 78 percent of his 73 attempts).
Late in the season Collins flashed more moves off the dribble, including spinning to short fadeaway jumpers, and began taking more 3-pointers at coach Mike Budenholzer’s urging. After attempting only two 3-pointers over his first 31 games, Collins attempted 45 over his final 43. He made 15 of his 40 attempts (38 percent) in non-garbage time, according to CTG, including 12 of 34 tries from the corner.
Collins showed defensive promise while playing about 40 percent of his 1,785 minutes at center, according to B-Ref. He used his lateral quickness to effectively guard ball-handlers on pick-and-rolls and, for the most part, alleviated concerns about his ability to protect the basket in the NBA because of his relatively short wingspan.
Collins did struggle at times to prevent scores around the basket despite good position because opponents flipped the ball over his outstretched hands. Per Synergy, Collins allowed 1.1 points per possession on non-post ups around the basket (111 possessions) to rank in the 38th percentile.
But there is some evidence that Collins served as a deterrent around the basket. Collins was a very good shot blocker as a rookie (76th percentile among bigs in block percentage, per CTG). Opponents shot 3.9 percent worse on shots at the rim with Collins on the floor, according to CTG. However, some of that probably can be attributed to sharing the floor with Dewayne Dedmon for 1,421 possessions: opponents shot 62.8 at the rim on the 2,075 possessions with Collins on the court and Dedmon off, per CTG.
The future appears bright for Collins, who already has established himself as a legitimate rotation big in the NBA. As a rookie he was an efficient and productive low-usage offensive player, and provided defensive value with his shot blocking and versatility. Collins can elevate his game by improving his defensive awareness and continuing to expand his offensive game so that he can remain efficient as he gets more opportunities.