The second season of John Collins’ NBA career was delayed at the outset, with the talented big man missing extended time as a result of an ankle issue. Collins has returned for 10 games of productive action, though, and his play is turning heads around the league.
Mike Schmitz and Kevin Pelton of ESPN recently compiled a top-10 list of “the 2017 draft picks with the most potential going forward” and Collins was prominently involved. Pelton is a bit higher on Collins’ upside, ranking him at No. 6 overall in the class, and he noted that Collins is “ahead of the centers who don’t crack my top 10 because of his versatility to defend power forwards and potentially stretch the floor as a 3-point shooter.”
In addition, Schmitz placed Collins at No. 9 overall and he wrote the following:
Collins’ run-and-jump athleticism and seemingly effortless production at age 21 earn him a spot at No. 9. While still improving defensively, he looks like he’ll be able to step out and make 3s down the road. His offensive feel for the game is also getting better, with more assists than turnovers to his name. Playing alongside a passer like Trae Young should only help Collins’ offensive attack long-term.
The entire piece is worth a read (and its contents are behind ESPN’s Insider paywall) but it is clear that Collins remains a steal (at No. 19 overall) when compared to his pre-draft evaluation. To this point in the season, he is averaging 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in only 27.4 minutes, with strong efficiency (62.6 percent shooting) and undeniable impact.
It will be interesting to see how Collins develops as a long-distance shooter, especially given his slow start to the season in that regard, and there are also lingering questions about his long-term deployment in terms of position and defensive ceiling. With that said, Collins might already be making the leap to be Atlanta’s best player in his second season and it is notable to see him placed alongside (or even ahead of) fellow sophomores who are off to strong professional starts.