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Atlanta Hawks roundtable: What is John Collins’ ultimate role on a playoff team?

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Our roundtable series rolls on with a hypothetical surrounding the rookie big man.

NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After a bit of time to allow the 2017-2018 season to breathe, there are a number of on-court questions to answer and, in this space over the next few days, the Peachtree Hoops staff will spring into action to tackle them. In our fifth roundtable, our writers predict the future of John Collins when it comes to his ultimate role on a playoff-level squad.


Brad Rowland: There is a lot of projection built in to this question and that has to be noted. We’ll learn a lot more about Collins in the next year (under a new head coach) and, because we still have a relatively limited sample, it’s tough to gauge. The former Wake Forest star was much better as a rookie than I ever would have envisioned, especially on the defensive end, and that could prove to be instructive here. At the moment, I would project him as a starter-level player in the future, with acknowledgement that he could fall short on it without development in a few areas or vastly exceed it if everything comes together. It will be interesting to see who his frontcourt mates will be in the near future but, in terms of a vacuum, Collins’ median outcome is probably a legitimate NBA starter and that would be a huge win at No. 19 overall.

Jeff Siegel: I think I’m a bit lower on Collins’ ceiling than most because I’m not 100 percent sure he’s a starter-caliber big man on a contender. He had a much better rookie year than I had envisioned for him, but I worry about how his production on both ends of the floor could be exploited in the playoffs by coaches who are dialed in on his strengths and weaknesses. Something will have to come along next season before I can see him as a starter: either he’ll need to stretch his jumper out to the three-point line or he’ll have to master the little things on the defensive end--defending without fouling and protecting the rim without giving up offensive rebounds. Collins ranked in the 30th percentile among big men in foul percentage and the Hawks were particularly poor on the defensive glass when he was in the game: they gave up a 28.8 percent offensive rebound rate to their opponents when he was out there and a 34.8 percent rate when he played center. Both of those numbers rank below the 10th percentile among big men this season.

Graham Chapple: On a playoff team, he can be a starter, I definitely think that’s possible in the future. On a title contending team, I think a role of sixth man/energy big off the bench is possible too. There’s a legitimate role for that in the league -- come in off the bench, screen, roll, block shots… We saw JaVale McGee to that to great effect in Game 1 against the Spurs and it was one of the defining performances of that game. With more defensive improvements, John Collins could easily do that (I know McGee started that game).

It’s very early to have this discussion to be honest, one year into his career as a big (who usually take longer to develop). I think it entirely depends on his defensive improvements. If he can improve defensively to hold his own, he could easily start for a playoff team. If not, his role will be more limited but he could definitely still contribute.

Glen Willis: He’s good enough to start but needs to be paired with another big man that can help account for some of his limitations. Especially if he becomes remotely elite on the offensive end, he will need to play next to a big man that can help protect the rim and handle the defensive assignment of bigger, more physical opponents. But for him to be maximized as a starting player the team needs to play with a style that takes advantage of his speed. Otherwise, Collins might slip towards needing to play the role of the energy big off of the bench, which would be disappointing because he’s capable of doing more than that.

Greg Willis: Right now, Collins is an exciting and explosive secondary scorer on the offensive end and a decent, but better than expected, defender. However, I’m expecting him to take a big stride forward next season. I see him as a starter at a 4 or 5 spot in a 3-big rotation with versatility. Coach Budenholzer kept Collins’ offensive game under wraps well into the season. I’m expecting to see a more diverse offensive game from him next season. I also expect to see him mature physically between now and next season which will help him on the defensive end including the defensive glass.

Sam Meredith: If Collins continues defending this well, there is no doubt that he could start for a playoff team. Ultimately as the game continues to trend towards a pace and space style, I think he will transition to the 5 and improve his three point shot. He is a guy you could potentially run part of an offense through much like Al Horford in his time spent with Atlanta. The most important thing for Collins is to not beef up, stay athletic and get in the film room as the Hawks are going to look to him to become a leader on this team very soon.

Xavier Cooper: I can see John Collins playing a similar role to Blake Griffin’s in Los Angeles. Blake scored a big bulk of his points from the elbow as he improves his mid-range game. I believe John Collins will eventually turn into a pretty decent shooter but still have that ability to score in the paint if need be. I can actually see him being a No. 2 option on a playoff team. I don’t think a team would make it very far with him as a No. 1 scoring option but I could be wrong. One thing you cant teach really is basketball IQ. You either have it or not. Collins has that, and can be a anchor when things go left.

Zach Hood: I think Collins has a great motor and definitely could provide valuable minutes on a playoff team, but I’m not sure he’s quite at the point where we can assume he’s a starter just yet. While his athleticism makes for great highlights, he still needs to makes significant strides on the defensive end before I would feel comfortable sending him out there to guard a Porzingis, Love or Horford for the majority of a game. I think it’s certainly possible he develops a consistent enough jumper and/or becomes a good enough defender to warrant significant playoff minutes considering both his jumper and his defense have improved drastically since he entered the league. As he stands now, he is a good rebounder and he runs the floor well for his size, so regardless, I think he’s a valuable player to have around playoff time.