The Atlanta Hawks took John Collins, a 19-year-old big man out of Wake Forest University, with the 19th pick in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft. Collins averaged 19.2 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game for the Demon Deacons, mostly working in the paint and hurting opponents with his ability in the post.
He’s not a shooter, but projects to be a strong post threat and roll man for the Hawks. Almost 80 percent of his shot attempts came in the restricted area last season for Wake Forest, but he might be able to add a short face-up jumper to his post game with the right development.
With the departure of Dwight Howard on Tuesday and the changes up front for Atlanta, Collins will get his opportunities to play in his rookie season. His defense might hold him back, but offensively and on the boards, he’s ready to contribute right away to winning basketball.
On the defensive end, Collins is much further behind. He does try on that end, but lacks focus, reaching in and committing bad fouls at inopportune moments. He’s also not particularly strong at just 225 pounds, but even though he’s completed two years of college, he’s just 19 years old and will have a lot of time to fill out his frame to become a more solid defensive player.
The youngster doesn’t project out as a shot-blocker, but we’ve already seen how Mike Budenholzer and his staff can build a fantastic defense around big men who aren’t shot-blockers. If anything holds him off the floor this year, it will be his defense; Budenholzer is very wary about putting defensively-challenged players on the floor, so it may be a few months into his career before he gets consistent minutes.
Collins will fit will with the Hawks on the offensive end as a pick-and-roll partner for Dennis Schröder and Atlanta might even go to him for some post-up possessions to get some bench scoring if Schröder is out of the game. He doesn’t quite fit the mold of the prototypical Hawks big man that we’ve come to know and love—his passing skills are mostly nonexistent and he doesn’t space the floor, but he can still be an effective member of the bench offense as soon as next season, if his defensive lapses don’t leave him stapled to the bench.