In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s installment focuses on Wake Forest power forward John Collins.
John Collins had one of the most statistically successful offensive seasons of any player in the NCAA during the 2016-17 season. He does not have the most impressive size for his position and his skill set, but he makes the most of it as to have an offensive impact on the game. His season is even more impressive when considering that although he was a sophomore he was the age of most freshman. He was rewarded with a spot on the ACC All-Conference first team and was recognized as the Most Improved Player in the conference. But there are some important questions regarding whether or not his production will translate at the next level.
The first thing one notices when watching video of John Collins is that he can absolutely fly. It seems that he takes it personally if anyone on either team beats to the offensive end on any possession. Although he does not possess above average size, he is an impressive rim runner and is excellent in transition. A majority of the plays that helped him shoot 62.4% from the field last year were uncontested shots at the rim, but he worked hard for them.
One of the most critical ways to draw some separation within the crowded field of front court players in this draft class is to assess whether a player can shoot from the perimeter. Collins has not demonstrated the ability to do that so far. Like Jarrett Allen, he did not make a single three-pointer at the collegiate level. But he had acceptable results at the free throw line (69% as a freshman, 74% as a sophomore) and looked comfortable shooting open mid-range jumpers from15 feet or so. So there is some hope that he might be able to develop as more of a spacer in time.
Collins has a versatile offensive game in terms of the schemes has can leverage. He is excellent working in the pick and roll and was one of the best scorers in the post in NCAA. He demonstrates an advanced ability to seal his defender when the pass in en route and can quickly convert the basket as soon as the ball is delivered.
But the questions regarding how much of that will translate at the NBA level comes from the fact that he plays very right handed and that he has a completely absent passing game. In both of his collegiate seasons he had at least 3 times as many turnovers as assists. He consistently gives up his dribble before he knows what he is going to do with the ball. He panics when opposing teams send a double team and does not even seem able to counter the presence of a help defender. At the next level, teams will likely be able to easily speed him up and force mistakes.
In a nutshell, on the defensive end of the court Collins is a mess. In a recent article, I outlined the defensive short-comings of T.J. Leaf , but Collins in on a whole different level. He rarely gets into an acceptable defensive posture and does not move his feet. The result is a lot of reaching and lunging, and the result of that is almost never-ending foul trouble. He averaged a staggering 7.4 fouls per 40 minutes during his freshman season, and while he improved to 4.5 fouls per forty minutes his freshman season it still limited his ability to stay on the court in most games.
Collins moves well in all directions and has plenty of verticality such that he should be able to play at least average defense. But the fundamentals are completely absent at this point in time. And his instincts are equally as bad. He was top 40 in the NCAA in defensive rebound rate but that seems to be the only area of his defensive play that is anything other than abysmal. When defending the pick and roll he never even demonstrates an even basic level of maintaining gap awareness.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
How can I put this? If you didn’t like the way Mike Scott looked in the Hawks defensive scheme at the power forward position early with his time with team, you are not going to be hoping to see the Hawks take Collins with either the #19 or #31 overall pick. He does demonstrate an elite motor and enough mobility to work with as a defensive prospect. But he would need a ton of reps (translation: time in the G League) to be able to develop into a remotely playable asset. And those players almost always fall to the latter half of the second round of the draft.
The Hawks will be operating a dedicated G League affiliate for the first time during the 2017-18 season. When draft night arrives we might see how that might factor into the type of player they are willing to take. Will they be willing to take younger players in the first round? Will they be open to drafting prospects with more raw than developed skills at higher selections that they have in the past?
Collins ability to move without the ball on offense is elite and the Hawks offensive system does put a value on that. But if Hawks are targeting him as a player they think they can develop, I would guess it would mean they are either trading back from the #31 spot or up from the #60 spot.
This theme might be becoming a little repetitive at this point, but the NBA is at a point where offensively capable players have more value than defense first players. Because of that Collins might be drafted higher than he would have been in even the last couple of drafts. Despite how mistake-prone he is, he has a ton of offensive upside and is still very young. But unlike some of the other young front court players in this draft (Jarrett Allen, Ike Anugbogu) Collins does not have the length to recover from mistakes. And that might be the reality that causes him to fall out of the first round between now and draft night.