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NBA Summer League 2017: Pelicans send Hawks to consolation bracket despite Collins’ brilliance

Though the Hawks’ SL quest for glory is over, Collins continues to turn heads

Kansas State v Wake Forest Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks lost their tournament game against the New Orleans Pelicans 105-95, meaning the Hawks will no longer be competing for the Summer League crown as New Orleans move on to the next round against the San Antonio Spurs.

Now that we’ve (collectively) reached the tournament phase, we’ll treat this like a regular season review of the game and go through why the Hawks fell short.

New Orleans trio prove too much for Hawks to handle

Though the Hawks got the better of New Orleans in their first meeting, the Pelicans proved too much for the Hawks to handle in the tournament game. They were led by three stellar performances by Quinn Cook, Cheick Diallo and, perhaps the surprise performance of the bunch, Jalen Jones.

Quinn Cook was the best player on the floor yesterday afternoon as his complete performance — 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting, 2-of-2 from behind the arc, seven assists and five rebounds — led the Pels to victory.

Cook has performed great all throughout Summer League but saved his best performance of the bunch for the tournament and the Hawks. He was on another level and the Hawks couldn’t deal with both his ability to score and his ability to get his teammates involved.

Could the Hawks have defended him better? Sure, but give him credit, he played a great game.

Cheick Diallo also continued his impressive Summer League with another 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, 7-of-8 from the free throw line and eight rebounds. Diallo was able to take advantage of Collins’ defensive tendencies and drew a number of ‘and-one’ plays on the young Hawk — momentum plays that certainly played into the Pelicans’ hands.

Jalen Jones did most of his damage at the free throw line with 11 of his 21 points coming from the charity stripe. Jones also helped stretch the floor by hitting two three-pointers. He was the big reason why the Pelicans won the free throw advantage 24-20.

It’s always difficult to keep pace when three of the opposing players score 20+ points and the Hawks didn’t have the offense to keep up. But, again, give credit to New Orleans because the 105 points they scored is a tournament-high and they moved the ball well tallying 18 assists, which is a high number at Summer League.

They are deserved winners, and who knows how many points they would’ve won by if they hadn’t coughed the ball up so much (their turnovers led to 20+ Atlanta points)...

‘Hey, man, this is a Hawks site, why the emphasis on New Orleans?’

Look, sometimes you lose games because you turned the ball over too many times or because you didn’t shoot well enough, etc., but sometimes you simply lose because the other team is better/played better and that’s the case here. The Pels shot better from the field, shot better from three, got to the free throw line more and shot better than the Hawks when they got there.

They were worth their win.

Lack of help for Collins

John Collins had another strong game (we’ll get to that soon) but there wasn’t enough of help for him on the offensive end.

Let’s start with the Summer League vets and the Hawks’ leaders, Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry.

Sure, Prince scored 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field but that boxscore doesn’t really tell the whole story. TP played OK but he wasn’t outstanding, partly-illustrated by his plus/minus rating of minus+12.

It’s been an difficult Summer League for TP, who has averaged 13.3 points per game on 34.7% shooting from the field. At times Prince has tried to do too much, something that Hawks Summer League head coach Charles Lee has eluded to as well. There’s nothing to really worry about with TP as far as a difficult Summer League goes heading into the regular season. He showed what he could do in the playoffs. He’ll be ready to rock when it really matters.

While you could make an case for/against the game Prince had, what isn’t really up for debate is that — really for the first time in Summer League this year — DeAndre’ Bembry struggled out on the floor.

Though Bembry scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting but was unable to get himself to the free throw line as he was able to in previous games, particularly in the Hawks’ last meeting with the Pelicans where Bembry got to the line 10 times and converting on eight occasions.

Bembry also struggled in the role of ball-handler/facilitator as he dished out just one assist while committing six turnovers and registering a plus/minus rating of minus+11. Bembry has both struggled and excelled in this role in Veags and I’m sure, now that the coaches have seen what he’s capable of as a ball-handler/facilitator — as well as where he can improve — Bembry will be working a lot with the coaches to further improve this aspect of his game.

Overall, this will be just a small blip on an impressive Summer League campaign for Bembry.

Outside of Collins, Prince and Bembry, Ryan Kelly was the next leading scorer with 11 points and, look, it’s not like the Hawks were poor offensively...they scored 95 points which would normally be enough to win most of the time at Summer League, as some of the score-lines clearly show. They just couldn’t keep up with New Orleans on the offensive end or get the stops they needed defensively (coming back to the overarching theme that NOLA were just better on the night).

If New Orleans played a great game, the Hawks played a pretty good one. It just wasn’t enough on this occasion.

Collins continues to impress

Though the Hawks will obviously be disappointed to be eliminated from the tournament bracket, the overall positive they’ll take away from Summer League is that John Collins looks fantastic, and he was fantastic again on Wednesday as he scored 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting while collecting another nine rebounds in 25 minutes of action.

Collins continues to impress with all the little things he has already shown, like attacking the offensive glass and creating second chance opportunities.

One thing that already sets Collins apart from some of the high-energy bigs in the league who crash the glass, is that once Collins snatches the offensive rebound he knows what to do with the ball and has the skills to actually make a play for/score himself.

Though he can smash the rim, Collins also has a finesse about him in these situations.

I remember watching Bismack Biyombo attack the glass and, once he secured the offensive rebound, he’d sometimes try and score himself but he’s so raw and janky offensively that the shot would normally miss. He doesn’t have ‘the touch’. Now, sometimes he’d draw a foul but he’d normally just brick the free throws once he got to the line. Collins not only has the touch to put the ball in the bucket but he can make his freebies too, and this will serve him very well at the next level.

Collins continues to prove himself as an offensive threat in pick-and-rolls. You have to guard his pick-and-pop threat and if you leave him any space to wind up, he gains momentum so quickly that before you know it he’s taking off into space and it’s too late.

And if you don’t respect his face up game he’ll make you pay, and Collins even made the Pelicans pay from behind the arc as he hit his first three-pointer of Summer League. This, as you could imagine, caused the Hawks Twitter-sphere to explode.

I think there was a mentality of ‘Oh, you’re leaving me open? OK then.’ to Collins as he shot that three. If you play the video and turn the audio on, you can hear someone say “OK”, and I think that’s actually Collins as he’s shooting that three.

Collins taking and making that three was quite the surprise as he certainly wasn’t known as a three-point shooter at Wake Forest. But Collins hears the whispers and has certainly made people think twice when it comes to his range.

“That’s been big time for me,” Collins said postgame when asked about the three-pointer. “That’s another gripe of my game is that I haven’t been able to stretch the floor, shoot any threes, was able to come in and comfortably knock one down. Today the defence was playing off me. (I) made them pay.”

Collins, as his play has showed, isn’t one to force the issue on the offensive end, but said that if the three-pointer was there to be taken within the flow of the offense...he’d do that.

“If it’s within the offense,” said Collins when asked if he had the green light to shoot open three-pointers. “I think I’ve shown the coaches the ability to shoot an open one. I’m not going to come off of any screens and shooting any treys, or anything like that. If it’s in the offence and they’re playing me the way they were…go ahead.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a John Collins Summer League game without Collins making the highlight reel, and he went above and beyond that against the Pelicans. Literally.

That’s going to take some beating to knock off the overall Top 10 Summer League plays.

Though Collins admitted the dunk was fun, he was disappointed to ultimately lose the game.

“(The dunk was) definitely (a fun moment). Fun in the moment, but it obviously gets dampened by the ‘L’. But it’s always fun to get one of those, definitely”.

It’s encouraging to see that competitive edge in Collins and focusing on what’s more important.

Defensively, as Checik Diallo helped illustrate, Collins still has work to do, and there was interesting moment during a timeout — right after Collins committed a foul on Diallo that led to an ‘and-one’ — where coach Charles Lee was speaking with Collins about defense, giving him pointers.

“Defensively, would love to see him show his hands on a couple of more plays when we’re not fouling the shooters,” Lee told the media postgame.

Collins recognizes that he has to improve his defense as to not be a target for the opposing team and is working hard to improve that aspect of his game.

“It’s something I’ve been seriously working on a lot,” said Collins. “I know it was one of my knocks coming out that ‘he can’t play defence’, whatever the case may be...I’ve been working on it. I’m going to see the improvement myself as I continue to play but it’s all about getting those reps, because at the next level if I’m a defensive liability they’re going to continue to go at me overtime I go down the court. (The) big thing for me to get better on that end.”

For everything he’s shown the Hawks and Hawks fans, Collins can be forgiven for his defense and he will probably be given a free pass by the fans for his defense in his rookie season. He will improve, and if/when he does he has the potential to be a very good two-way player.

It’s early and it’s easy to get carried away in Summer League (so be careful), but so far so good for John Collins.

Up next

The Hawks now drop into the Consolation Bracket where they’ll hope to secure third place overall. Their next pponents are the Houston Rockets, who were knocked off by the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.