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ESPN ranks John Collins as top-10 rookie for ‘future potential’

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Some love for Atlanta’s soon-to-be sophomore big man.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

John Collins was tremendous as a rookie for the Atlanta Hawks, to the point where it is universally accepted that the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft was an absolute steal for the organization. With that in mind, Mike Schmitz and Kevin Pelton of ESPN set out to “rank their top 10 rookies in terms of their future potential” this week and Collins was treated quite favorably.

Both analysts placed Collins at No. 7 overall and Schmitz had this to say about his ranking of the former Wake Forest standout:

Next I have Collins, who I thought had some excellent moments and is a future building block for the Hawks. He’s one of the league’s best rim-runners, he spaces the floor vertically as a lob-catcher and the fact that he knocked down 34 percent of his 3s on 47 attempts is a welcome sign moving forward, as he doesn’t turn 21 until late September. He needs to think the game at a higher level and he’s still learning how to defend, but I love his combination of production and upside, especially as a small-ball center.

It is certainly high praise to describe Collins as an elite rim-runner, especially after just one season, but his developing skill set (especially defensively) could be tantalizing if everything comes together.

In conjunction, Pelton said the following about Collins:

Collins actually finished third among rookies in my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric during the regular season, behind only Mitchell and Simmons, though his RPM wasn’t as impressive. The three closest comparables for Collins at the same age from my SCHOENE projection system include Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire, so we may be underselling his upside. But I think the number of productive centers in the league right now may limit Collins’ value. That also kept Jarrett Allen and Bam Adebayo off my list.

It is a popular exercise (including in this space) to go through the 2017 draft and “re-select” what the order might look like after just one season and, while that isn’t specifically what ESPN was doing here (2016 draftee Ben Simmons was in consideration, for example), it is a similar undertaking. Collins ranked ahead of Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith Jr., Jonathan Isaac and OG Anunoby (among others) on at least one of the lists and, while consensus is very tough to come by across the board here, everyone seems to agree that he is a tremendous prospect.

The 2018-19 season should prove to be quite instructive with regard to Collins’ future, especially if he takes on a larger workload under the direction of a new head coach. For now, though, this is an example of some national praise for Atlanta’s young big man and that is never a bad thing.