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NBA Summer League 2017: John Collins, Diamond Stone impress against Pelicans

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Diamond Stone was among those who stood out in the Hawks’ first Summer League victory of 2017

2016 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks won their first game of Summer League Las Vegas after overcoming the New Orleans Pelicans 84-82 in a tight and entertaining affair at Cox Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.

Here are some of the things that stood out from the Hawks’ victory.

The John Collins train picks up speed

After attempting just four shots (and scoring eight points) in the Hawks’ first Summer League game, Hawks rookie John Collins truly announced himself to Hawks fans (and indeed, NBA fans) with a super performance against the Pelicans — 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes of action.

We really got to see what Collins could do on the offensive end after only really getting a small taste against the Nets.

One of the things we did see against the Nets was Collins’ desire to take the ball inside and inside off of the pick-and-roll and we saw that again against the Pelicans.

This move was actually more impressive than it looks. As Collins converges in the paint and rises, three Pelican defenders swarm to him.

Collins seemingly had no place to go, but he managed to squeeze himself between two defenders, drew the contact and the foul.

Off the dribble, Collins bullies his way to the rim and scores with ease.

Those are the things we did see against the Nets — and what he showed again — but Collins showed an awful lot more on Sunday afternoon.

We got to see more of Collins’ jump shooting abilities that we didn’t see him (to his credit) force/take against the Nets.

Collins said after the Nets game that he felt confident — and that his coaches had confidence in him — to take the mid-range shot when it presented itself and he certainly did so against the Pelicans.

As Collins comes off of the pick-and-roll, he realises that he’s open and rises up without hesitation to take the mid-range shot.

Swish, and Collins did the same a few moments later when he realised that no one was going to close him down near the three-point line — again, that confidence to take the shot the defense was giving him and he made it.

The confidence was just oozing in Collins in the third quarter and you could tell, as he gave fans a taste of his ability in the post (which we didn’t see in the Nets game) and hits his opponent with the step-back shot and hits nothing but net.

Collins said after the Nets game that there were some Game 1 nerves, but after Game 2 he said he felt a lot more comfortable, and you could certainly tell that he was the case.

“It was my first professional game ever, (so) I’m going to have nerves and it was good for me to get those out yesterday.” Collins said postgame. “I think it (the lack of nerves/confidence) showed today, I was a little more loose, came out and played my game...”

Just like in the Nets game, Collins displayed his athleticism with a monster dunk in the third quarter.

Wow. He took off from way out and hammered it home.

Collins remarked to NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg postgame that he had to make up for the few monster dunk attempts he missed in the Nets game.

“...I had to fluster with authority,” said Collins. “I had a couple I missed last game so I wanted to redeem myself.”

Collins not only continues to impress the fans but his coaches too. Hawks assistant coach — and Summer League head coach — Charles Lee was, again, delighted with not only Collins’ overall performance but his work ethic and professionalism.

“...John (was) rebounding his butt off, rim running, (made) a lot of effort plays which has been great,” coach Lee said. “It was good to see him operate outside of the post, hit a couple of mid-range jumpers but I thought, most importantly, when he did get it in the post he made the right decisions. Shows his growth...”

“I’m just most impressed with his work ethic and his ability to be so coachable”, Lee added. “...I just think he’s been a real professional about going things the right way and having the right mentality in these games.”

The fact that Collins is a very coachable player bodes very well for his future as the Hawks mould him into the player they envisioned him to be when they selected him 19th overall.

Diamond Stone shines bright (like a...)

Sorry, couldn’t resist...

Anyways, Diamond Stone — acquired in the three-team trade with the Nuggets and Clippers — made his first appearance for the Hawks in Summer League having missed the Nets game and was hugely impressive in his 14 minutes of play, scoring 11 points and collecting five rebounds.

Let’s start on the defensive end, the end Stone is most likely to have an impact in the most immediate future.

Stone did a great job challenging shots at the rim, using his length to deter shots and bother his opponents.

Here, Stone moves his feet well, stays with his man and does a great job staying vertical — keeping his arms sky-high at all times and this successfully bothers his opponent’s shot. This also helped spur the Hawks into their offense, push in transition and Taurean Prince gets himself to the rim for the score.

Operating as the help defender in this situation, Stone does a great job covering ground quickly to get to the rim and protect it by, again, going straight up and using his length to bother his opponent.

That’s great defense. It’s one thing to be vertical when you jump but another when you land. Often you see defender’s arms drop as their body come down from their vertical challenge and this is when they make contact with their opponent and defensive fouls are called. But Stone does a great job keeping those arms up at all times and the Hawks get the defensive stop.

John Collins could be such a more effective defender if he were able to add this to his defense game and do it on a consistent basis. It’ll come with time, I’m sure.

There were some occasions where Stone was beaten by Cheick Diallo (who was hugely impressive in this game), Jaleel Cousins got him a few times too, and that’s OK. Stone more than showed his potential defensively and is still only 20 years old (and doesn’t turn 21 until next February.

Offensively, Stone isn’t exactly a juggernaut in terms of scoring but showed worth on the offensive end in lots of other ways.

Stone did a great job at effectively attacking the glass and converting the offensive rebound into second chance points.

On this possession in the first half, look at Stone’s movement. He puts himself in a great position to contest for the offensive rebound if the shot misses, which it does, and it’s easy pickings for Stone as he converts the offensive put-back.

After a solid screen frees up Tyler Dorsey for a three-point shot, Stone displays his strength as he out-muscles his opponent, collects the offensive rebound and dunks the ball home.

Anytime your strength — legally — forces another fully grown man to the floor (on the basketball court, please note), that’s always a good thing.

Stone continued to attack the glass in the second half. Off of the miss by Josh Magette, he catches the defense sleeping, as the Pelicans fail to put a body on Stone, and he collects the offensive rebound and scores.

Stone also showed some toughness inside and in traffic. Off of the pass from DeAndre Bembry (who we’ll get to soon), Stone somehow manages to get a shot away, score and draw the foul.

No idea how Stone got this shot off and made it — very impressive toughness and skill displayed there.

When it comes to expanding the range, however, Stone still has some work to do.

But Stone isn’t just limited to just collecting offensive rebounds on the offensive end. He’s also a solid screen setter.

Setting good screens is an underrated trait in this league. A lot of guys won’t actually make meaningful contact between themselves and the defender and sometimes they don’t free up the space the ball handler needs.

One thing that would annoy me when watching Al Horford play when he was in Atlanta was that he more so tagged his man and then rolled when he went to set a screen rather than absorb the contact and then rolling.

(Next time you have a chance, watch the difference between Marcin Gortat and Al Horford setting a screen)

This isn’t a problem with Stone. Here, he makes good contact with the defender and this frees up Taurean Prince to make his move, get to the paint, rise and score.

If you can crash the glass, protect the rim and set good screens there’s a job for you in this league. Heck, look at Bismack Biyombo who got paid last summer for doing exactly that.

Coach Charles Lee was impressed Stone’s performance and how he has adapted despite not being with the team out in Vegas for very long.

“He played really hard today, I loved what he did,” Lee remarked. “(He) made some plays defensively, made some plays offensively too. I think in the short time he has been here, he’s caught on really fast on how we want to play and has been very accepting of that. In the 14 and a half minutes that he played, he did everything we asked him to do which I was very happy with, especially for day one.

Stone put together a very impressive game in his Hawks debut but there’s going to be growing pains and things aren’t always going to be this good. He’s a 20 year old big — bigs take time to develop but so far so good for Diamond Stone (wouldn’t mind him starting ahead of Richard Solomon next time out, for what it’s worth).

Bembry continues to impress

Consistency is sometimes hard to find in Summer League (since a lot of the players here are, obviously, young players and consistency just isn’t a part of their package yet) but DeAndre Bembry has now put together two great performances back-to-back as he scored 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting, 8-of-10 from the free throw line, collected seven rebounds, dished out six assists and came up with six steals which was one of the highest amounts ever recorded at Summer League Las Vegas.

Though Bembry struggled in the Nets game with playmaking without turning the ball over (two assists and seven turnovers), he did a much better job in that department against the Pelicans (six assists and three turnovers).

Coach Lee said he was very comfortable to have Bembry handle the ball and he must’ve felt good about placing the ball in Bembry’s hands on Sunday because was often looking to get his teammates going and he excelled in this role.

Even though not all of this passes went through, his vision and desire to stay with the play were still present.

After failing to connect with John Collins for the lob, Bembry ends up with the ball after some good hustle from Collins and he immediately bounces back by finding Prince for a three-pointer.

Bembry connected with his bigs on a number of occasions to great effect. Off of the pick-and-roll with Collins, Bembry connects with Collins, who does a good job finishing underneath the basket.

Here’s a great play made by Bembry where he collapses the defense and draws out the rim protector which opens up a free lane for Collins to rise and finish with authority.

That’s a beautiful play.

Postgame, Charles Lee praised the multiple facets that helped Bembry establish himself as an offensive threat in the game.

“...Offensively he has such a good feel when to slash, when to cut, his pace on pick-and-rolls...all of that is coming along.”

Defensively, Bembry also had a significant impact on the game. He was disruptive, getting his hands in amongst the passing lanes and to great effect.

Here, Bembry anticipates where and when the pass is going to be made and times it to perfection, stealing the ball and drawing the clear-path foul.

Here’s another great play from Bembry and it comes off of the disappointment of a lob pass that was tossed a little too hard and fast towards Prince. Off of the turnover, the Pelicans come the other way and Bembry makes up for this error by making a great defensive play — getting his hands into the passing lane, coming up with the steal, pushing the pace and finding Prince, who does a great job using his three-point threat to create an opportunity to drive inside and find the ever-leaping Collins.

And just for the sake of showing, this was arguably Bembry’s best steal of the game.

He really fights to come up with this steal and to nab it away from a better point guard in the form of Quinn Cook and the angle of which he steals this ball... Very impressive. Bembry ended up with six steals, including the one that sealed the game for the Hawks.

Bembry’s overall defensive performance was game-changing, and his versatility as a defender to guard multiple positions stood out to coach Lee.

“He had six steals today,” Lee said postgame. “At the end of the game we felt comfortable with DeAndre to be able to guard the point guard. That aspect of his game, being able to guard multiple positions is going to be something that’s huge for him...”

I know it’s Summer League, but the more and more Bembry plays the more and more he seems set for a big role with the Hawks next season.

‘The Ryan Kelly Show’

What a unique situation this was...

Ryan Kelly was waived by the Houston Rockets on Friday — having been traded by Atlanta to Houston earlier in July — and cleared waivers during halftime, making him eligible to play for the Hawks in the second half.

And that’s exactly what happened...

Kelly sure made up for the time he lost in the first half and jacked away in the third quarter, and did — to his credit — hit two three-pointers but finished the game shooting 2-of-9 from the field and 2-of-6 from behind the arc.

There’s not a whole to say about Kelly and his performance (other than he wasn’t shy in shooting) but it truly was a weird situation that I’m sure hasn’t happened often.

Summer League...

Dunkzzz

This game produced a number of great dunks, highlighted by DeAndre Bembry’s 360 dunk and Collins’ tomahawk jam.

“...It’s always fun to put on a show, use out athleticism,” said Collins postgame. “People come out here to see some basketball and it’s always good to have some highlights thrown in there.”

Though Taurean Prince felt he didn’t play great on offense, he felt these highlight/momentum plays — particularly from Collins — helped fuel the team and fuel him personally.

“...Offensively I felt like I shot bad. Today, I still feel like I shot bad but, at the same time, I was playing a lot better defense, doing a lot of other things than just scoring so it all came together good. Credit to John Collins, because he really gave me a spark, to be honest. We had to match his intensity today.”

You could tell too that Prince was fuelled by these highlight/momentum plays. This defensive possession occurred not long after Collins made a play and look how Prince was getting after it defensively.

The Pelicans also got in on the action as Cheick Diallo got the better of Taurean Prince with this monster jam.

Up next

The Hawks improve to 1-1 in Summer League and will take on the Chicago Bulls later today.