The 2017-2018 NBA season is rapidly approaching, even if it feels far away at this juncture. The Atlanta Hawks may not be a title contender but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any intrigue surrounding the team and, before training camp gets underway, our Peachtree Hoops staff came together to address ten topics about the squad.
The first edition broke down the team’s biggest strength for the upcoming season and that was followed up by the flip side in evaluating Atlanta’s biggest weakness. Elsewhere, we took a glance at some position battles to monitor and, today, we’ll look to the team’s most prominent rookie and what his role will look like in his maiden voyage.
Brad Rowland: I really, really hope Collins is a part of the rotation from Opening Night. There are real concerns about his defense at the outset and that might keep him off the floor for a head coach that is stingy at times on that end. With that said, wins and losses shouldn’t be the sole concern for a rebuilding club and Collins needs to be on the floor. Let’s just say I have a feeling there will be a few frustrating moments, though.
Graham Chapple: I’m hoping he’ll be starting on opening night but Bud will probably roll with Ilyasova for the start of the season. If Collins saw 15-20 minutes a night at the beginning of the season I wouldn’t be mad at that but I do think his development has to be a priority this season. I’m sure he’ll have some nights where he’s yanked for his defense or held out of games altogether in a learning process in his rookie year. Ultimately, at the very least, I see Collins as a part of the regular rotation.
Greg Willis: Personally, I would like to see John Collins finish the season in the top three in minutes played for the Hawks this season, with Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. I know I am in the minority on this one, but I expect to see John Collins start and play 20+ minutes per game from the beginning of the season. He will have quite the learning curve on the defensive end but he is very coachable and his willingness to listen and learn should earn some level of patience from Coach Budenholzer. He is explosive on the offensive end and the Hawks need all the firepower they can get to put points on the board.
Glen Willis: I actually have the feeling that he might not play many minutes early in the season. He is just going to be incredibly error prone on defense and Coach Bud is going to want to see him cut down on the most egregious of mistakes before he gets a lot of playing time. Collins will have to earn any heavy minutes he is going to get. But given his motor and sense of urgency I hope he is getting 20 minutes or more per game by mid-December or so. That said, the rookie is going to be a highlight reel in what time he does get. So they are going to have to play him some from the outset of the season just to get people in the building.
Jeff Siegel: Once January rolls around, he’ll be getting consistent minutes, but it would surprise me to see him on the floor for significant time before that point. Budenholzer is notoriously picky when it comes to the defensive side of the ball and rookies are, in general, the worst defenders in the league. It’ll take a lot of convincing to get Collins on the floor before the turn of the calendar, though I do expect that he’ll get minutes in the second half of the year and will bring a boon to the Hawks offensively with his athleticism and even his ability to pass the ball a little bit from his position. A Collins-Muscala frontcourt may not start many games this season but Atlanta’s offense might open up a lot with those two guys in the game.
RedRev: There is no bigger fan or driver of the Collins Train than me...but...if he starts on more than a semi-regular basis, this team will be awful. I will be watching his defense and hope to see flashes of him being able to handle players in one-on-one situations where his history as been poor. He actually flashed some defensive improvements this summer but he had few opportunities to face NBA-ready talent. I am not concerned about playing time nearly as much as this singular development because it is what will separate him from being a valuable NBA player and on with borderline star quality.
Thomas Jenkins: John Collins is one of the most exciting players on this roster. Out of all the young players, one can even make the argument that he might be the most important. Schroder has proven that he can be a fine starter, and Prince is almost at that level. With Collins, the ceiling and floor are both much more uncertain. Likewise, how much time he will play this season is unclear. If I had to guess though, I’d say that he would see limited playing time at first, followed by a steady increase of minutes as the season goes on. Of course, his level of play will go a long way in that determination.