After a year in which he garnered second team All-Rookie honors, John Collins arrived in NBA Summer League with almost an expectation of dominance. After all, players with his pedigree don’t always even appear on the floor in Las Vegas and, given the team’s quick jaunt to Salt Lake City, there was a bit of mystery as to whether Collins would play alongside Trae Young in the desert.
However, he did see action in two games and, predictably, Collins was tremendous in leading the entire, 30-team league in scoring (24.0 points per game) and generally reinforcing the idea that he was overqualified. With that as the backdrop, Collins did not appear in the team’s final quartet of games, instead encouraging teammates with energy and coaching wearing a polo shirt from the sideline.
Still, his (brief) performance was enough to inspire a group of NBA experts to anoint him as the best “veteran” player in Vegas. Four of the five ESPN panelists answering a prompt about the top returner noted Collins, with Kevin Pelton writing the following:
Collins was one of three second-year players who made the All-Rookie Second Team to suit up in Las Vegas, and while the other two (Josh Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr.) were uneven because of poor shot selection -- more on that later -- Collins led all scorers with 24.0 points per game in his two appearances. Collins wasn’t quite that good at the Utah Jazz summer league before reaching Vegas, but it was always evident that he was the most talented player on the court.
From there, ESPN draft expert Mike Schmitz made a lofty comparison that involved Collins and Trae Young.
It’s hard to call 20-year-old second-year big man John Collins a veteran, but as far as non-rookies go, Collins shined the brightest. The most important takeaway revolves around Collins’ improved 3-ball, with what looked like a translatable stroke. Collins and rookie sensation Trae Young appear to be building a Steve Nash-Amar’e Stoudemire-like rapport, as Young is one of the 2018 class’ best passers, and Collins’ ability to space the floor both vertically and as a shooter makes the duo one of the most lethal young pick-and-roll pairings in the league. Collins still has his shortcomings as a team defender and a passer, but his improved shooting and chemistry with Young should culminate in a huge sophomore season.
With an emphasis on his perimeter play (including a smooth jump shot in the pick-and-pop game), Collins displayed quite a bit more than he did at times during his rookie season. That, combined with his already effective game at the rim, should present significant upside in the future and it is hard to avoid excitement for what is to come with the still-young big man from Wake Forest.