As the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, John Collins joined the Atlanta Hawks with relatively modest expectations. After 10 days in Las Vegas, those expectations skyrocketed on the back of a very exciting, very efficient brand of basketball.
With that said, the overarching concerns with Collins came on the defensive end and it would be tough for any rookie to assuage those doubts based on Summer League performance. To that end, Sean Devaney of the Sporting News caught up with who he describes as a “league scout” and, while the piece was not entirely about Collins, the former Wake Forest star made an appearance.
In terms of things that the scout “didn’t love,” Collins’ defense was the topic.
“You have to wonder about where he fits defensively. He is probably going to guard 4s, but he did not show that he’s ready for that. He’ll make a lot of mistakes, the question is, how does he learn from them?”
The NBA is moving toward a more position-less brand of basketball but, in the same breath, it is tough to play big men that can’t play center or defend on the perimeter against small-ball power forwards. Collins could morph into a legitimate 5 on the defensive end based on his athleticism and ability to end possessions as a rebounder. Still, the youngster wasn’t much of a rim protector at the college level and his wingspan (“only” 6’11) was a concern in the draft process.
As a power forward defensively, Collins would need a significant jump in general awareness and positioning, which isn’t out of the question. The concerns will always be there, though, in that power forwards of his ilk are often played off the floor defensively when teams deploy four-out lineups. Some of that can be mitigated by the springy athleticism Collins displayed in Vegas, but only time will tell.
On a more positive note, the evaluation loved Collins’ polish offensively.
“His footwork. He got a lot of attention for the dunks, but he is in position for those dunks because of what he does with his feet. He always has a solid base, and he does not waste a step. He runs the floor, he gets to offensive rebounds and he is very good in the paint. That’s all footwork.”
It cannot be overstated just how efficient Collins was at the college level, leading the entire country in PER while playing at the highest level in the ACC. Some of his reputation as a pure “bucket getter” can be traced to the footwork referenced above, and he remains quite polished on the offensive end.
Beyond that, Collins flashed more passing and decision-making ability in Las Vegas than he displayed at Wake Forest and that wildly encouraging. It would be a big jump to assume that Collins can be a full-blown No. 1 option offensively but operating in a supporting role is (much) easier when a frontcourt player can deliver accurate, timely passes and Collins put forth a strong effort in that regard.
There will be plenty of time to discuss and evaluate John Collins in the coming days but it is important to keep in mind that he is a 19-year-old with a lot of work to do, especially on one end of the floor. Stay tuned.