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John Collins, Taurean Prince earn ‘watch list’ attention ahead of 2018-2019 season

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Not quite there but maybe in the future.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It is full-blown “list season” in the NBA and that means the 2018-2019 season is almost here. Kent Bazemore was recently included as a top 100 player by the good folks at Sports Illustrated and, while he was alone in representing the Atlanta Hawks, the same outlet recently recognized two additional members of the roster in an interesting way.

Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated put together a “watch list” to target players that could crash the top 100 party in advance of the 2019-2020 season and two young players from Atlanta made the cut. John Collins was one of them.

After a string of jaw-dropping games at Las Vegas Summer League showcased his talent, Collins could be on the verge of a statistical breakout at age 21. He already exceeded expectations as a rookie, averaging double figures, impacting the glass on both ends and making 26 starts. Collins should become a full-time starter and lineup fixture as the Hawks start their rebuild, and he will benefit from having Trae Young and Jeremy Lin on the floor making plays.

Collins also garnered love as “a dynamic rim-roller” and Woo indicates that the former Wake Forest star “has begun to unlock the upper end of his potential.” This, of course, isn’t anything new to those paying close attention to the Hawks in recent days, as Collins was quite productive (and, perhaps more impressively, efficient) during his rookie season in the NBA.

Now, Collins will make something of a transition into a full-time starting role and, according to the current roster, it looks as if more of his time will come at the power forward spot. That has led Collins and the team’s brass to push his limits to the perimeter and, at least in Summer League, the returns were strong. If nothing else, Collins plays an entertaining style and he should be unlocked (as noted by Woo) by the creativity and passing of the team’s new point guards.

Elsewhere on the list, Taurean Prince makes an appearance and Woo wrote the following about the talented small forward.

Flying under the radar as the Hawks struggled, Prince showed improvements and made a big statistical stride as a sophomore, averaging 14.1 points, starting all 82 games, and putting his 3-and-D skillset to better use all around. He’s a jack-of-all-trades with the type of strong build and defensive utility that tends to come at a premium these days, plus an improving jump shot that should enable him to stick around the NBA for as long as he wants.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Prince adjusts to his new teammates (and coaching staff), particularly after something of a breakout down the stretch of the season when he operated with the ball in his hands. Woo also notes that “if Prince’s shooting splits continue trending upward and Prince evolves into a plus defender, he can be the type of player any team could use.” This unquestionably increases Prince’s value, as the premium placed on players with his size at the small forward position is undeniable, provided the strong three-point shooting continues.

It might be a surprise to some to see Trae Young not on a list like this and, well, the surprise is warranted. Still, it is always nice to see some appreciation for players underrated nationally like Prince and Collins, and it would be great for the Hawks if one or both made the leap that many expect during the 2018-19 season.