The Atlanta Hawks weren’t expecting John Collins to be available with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. In fact, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said as much on draft night, indicating that the team “had him ranked in the top 15” and that Atlanta’s front office was generally surprised that the rookie big man didn’t come off the board before the Hawks had a chance to nab him.
Now, we can count Collins himself as another surprised party and one that seems to be on a mission to prove teams that passed on him in June wrong. In speaking with David Aldridge of NBA.com, Collins said the following about slipping to 19 and how that motivates him.
“I wanted to prove that I should have went higher. Not to say that I’m not happy with the spot I’ve fallen. I’ve fallen to a great spot, a great organization, the fans love me. I have a great opportunity here, which I’m blessed for. But I want to show everybody, I feel like I should have gone number one. Maybe that isn’t realistic. But I want to prove to everybody that I should have went higher. I’ve been overlooked most of my career. So I’m kind of happy, because it gives me that same energy, that same fear and drive.”
Collins certainly seems to be impressing NBA types, as his performance in the Las Vegas Summer League received rave reviews. His point concerning falling “to a great spot” is a good one, especially in light of his pre-draft defensive concerns and the yeoman’s work that Mike Budenholzer and his staff have put forth in developing players on that end.
Still, Collins realizes that he has an adjustment period ahead as he tries to make teams look bad for going in different directions.
“The biggest thing from him to me is that it’s an adjustment period. You go from being the guy in college to being one of the guys -- trying to become one of them. It’s a big process. As a rook, it’s all about development and learning. He said be patient, it’s going to take some time. Obviously you have to put the work into it.”
The development curve for the former Wake Forest star will be interesting and it does appear as if Collins is ready to put in the effort to improve. In fact, Hawks assistant and Summer League head coach Charles Lee has been quite impressed by that trait with Collins.
“I’m just most impressed with his work ethic,” Lee said. “And just his ability to be so coachable... I just think he’s been a real professional about going things the right way and having the right mentality in these games.”
As a rookie under Mike Budenholzer (given past precedent), Collins won’t be gifted playing time in the early going and, in short, he’ll have to earn his way on to the floor. Still, it hasn’t taken long for the entire league to notice and speculate about just how early the rookie big man should have gone in the 2017 NBA Draft and the Hawks look to have picked up a steal just a few weeks ago.