John Collins has been included on the short list of rookies with a clear path to exceed expectations and the buzz about his game is very real. There is no assurance that the first round pick will immediately join the rotation for the Atlanta Hawks but, if given the opportunity, Collins appears quite eager to take full advantage of it.
"My biggest strength is my versatility. With the way this game is going, at my size, I need to do multiple things -- pass, shoot, dribble and make plays.
Versatility would not have been seen as Collins’ primary value point prior to the draft but the former Wake Forest did show off a developing perimeter game from a shooting perspective with high-end passing tools that weren’t previously evident. In fact, Collins indicates that the Hawks are giving him “free rein” to operate in a more expansive way.
"My ability to play off the pick-and-roll, open plays for other guys and use my athletic body to catch lobs, that's what I do every night. They are giving me free rein to do all that."
There is a bit of a developing log-jam in the frontcourt for Atlanta and, as such, Collins doesn’t have the breezy pathway to playing time that was once evident. Dewayne Dedmon, Mike Muscala and Ersan Ilyasova are penciled in with prominent frontcourt roles and even the addition of Luke Babbitt and the presence of veteran center Miles Plumlee could take away some immediate playing time from Collins.
Still, there is nothing in the way of reticence from Collins, who is taking the loss of Paul Millsap as something of an opportunity, even if he has to “earn” his minutes on the floor.
"Since I don't get to learn from Paul [Millsap], I have to go out there and earn my minutes and prove [myself] to my coaching staff. It's an opportunity there for me to [go] get."
Within the interview, Collins indicates that "the biggest thing is to adjust from college to a professional setting" and, while that might go without saying, it is quite important. Collins will not play only a back-to-the-basket, bruising role at the NBA level and, even as a top-shelf athlete, versatility and the skill set needed to play on the perimeter a fair amount will be quite important.
At the end of the day, though, John Collins has the tools to excel from an athletic explosion standpoint and, if he can pair that with real, polished tools, the sky is the absolute limit.