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Atlanta Hawks 2018-2019 player preview: John Collins

Breaking down the second-year big man.

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In advance of the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Peachtree Hoops crew will preview each player on the current roster. The fifteenth edition breaks down second-year big man John Collins.

It’s no secret that John Collins is expected to make a significant leap in his second year in the league. Out of all the players on the Atlanta Hawks roster, Collins seems to be the guy everyone is banking on to be anything close to an All-Star in the near future. In fact, CBS Sports just recently ranked John Collins at No. 100 on their list of the best NBA players heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. But before he can live up to the hype, he’ll have to show more than just his athleticism and knack for scoring around the rim this season.

For a No. 19 pick in the first round of 2018 NBA Draft, Collins performed exceptionally well in his rookie season. He averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 57.6 percent from the field. The impressive part about those counting stats is that Collins only averaged 24.1 minutes of playing time. With Collins being the clear-cut starting power forward for the Atlanta Hawks this upcoming season, those numbers should increase. But being a big man in today’s league is more about the evolution of your game than it is about stacking up ridiculous numbers.

This season, Collins will need to put his versatility on display. He was incredible at making shots in the paint by utilizing his ability to grab offensive rebounds for putback dunks and catching lobs thrown by teammates. He made an astounding 73.2% of his shots taken from within three feet. But what will happen when he has to find a way to score on the Rudy Goberts and DeAndre Jordans of the NBA? These are both elite rim protectors that’ll ruin every inch of confidence you have by swatting away any weak moves attempted near the glass.

Power forwards and centers that don’t possess any creativity on the offensive end can only do so much, unless you have a Chris Paul-like point guard with god-level court vision leading the way. Collin’s main job on offense this season will be to create mismatches for himself. The Hawks will play him at both the 4 and 5 at times this season depending on the matchup.

Ideally, Atlanta will count on him to create problems for bigger guys by being able to run the floor and space it by being a decent threat from the perimeter, yet be strong and athletic enough to make things tough for the average power forward. While many big men are able to shoot the three-point shot, many of them still have a problem defending it while still trying to protect the basket.

If Collins doesn’t develop a consistent jumper from downtown, he’ll have to be able to get points by at least drawing fouls and getting to the line, posting up, or at least hitting a decent amount of mid-range shots. When you establish a presence in the paint, you draw fouls. This is especially true for high flyers like Collins. He made 71.4 percent of his free throws the previous season. That’s not too bad, but if he improves in that area it’ll give him somewhere between four and six easy points a game at the line.

Collins showed in Summer League that he could knock down long range shots if given enough space. He averaged 24.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in Vegas and 14 points and 6.5 rebounds in Utah. Believe it or not, Collins not only hit several threes throughout the tournament, but his form looked pretty nice as well. He gave us a flash of how dangerous he could be if he added a consistent three-point shot and developed above-average ball handling skills for a player at his position.

Overall, he obviously looked like a player that had more NBA experience than many of his peers. If what we saw in Las Vegas and Utah is real, the Hawks could very well see a more well-rounded John Collins as it pertains to offense. But what will we expect to see on defense?

From that standpoint, Collin’s greatest challenge will be playing successful defense without fouling so much. Last season he averaged a total of 2.9 personal fouls. This is a tad bit too much for a player that didn’t quite average full-time starting minutes. To be honest, his minutes would have probably been higher had he not stayed in frequent foul trouble.

Defensive versatility is like offensive versatility in many ways. Collins has to find the best way to make an impact for the Hawks on that end in his own way. It doesn’t matter if that translates to steals, blocks, or forced turnovers. Both Paul Millsap and Rudy Gobert are good defensive big men, but they’re known for that in totally different ways. As long as Collins finds a way to contribute on D without getting in foul trouble the Hawks he’ll have more opportunity to show his development on offense by being able to play at the end of games.

Nobody is expecting Collins to average 20 and 12 this season. What the Hawks are expecting from Collins is more a new bag of tricks that consist of more than just dunks. Yes, its exciting to watch and it sells tickets. But all of that doesn’t matter if he doesn’t help the Hawks get wins down the road.

Collins isn’t just a player the Hawks picked up to fill the roster. He’s a player they plan on keeping long-term to help them become a winning franchise so the expectations are a little higher for him than they are for some of the other Hawks players. John Collins is still young enough develop the skills it takes to be considered a “unicorn” in today’s league. We’ll just have to see what he’s worked on this summer as the 2018-19 NBA season is just around the corner.