While there are just five games remaining on the Hawks season and it seems like players with even the smallest of injuries are (appropriately) being ramped down, there is still one thing I am hoping to see.
Trae Young and John Collins have long led the team in usage but in very different forms. Young creates shots for himself and others. Collins’ assists per 36 minutes is up only slightly over last season. His usage is coming primarily from shots being created for him and shots he is creating for himself. It’s a bit surprising that a slightly higher percentage of Collins’ made shots this year have been assisted as compared to last year.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the impact of Young seeing more traps across the latter half of the season and how that informs the type of skill set future Atlanta big men will need to have. Opportunities to evaluate that this season is clearly driven by the schemes opposing teams choose to deploy against the Hawks’ pick-and-roll sets.
The thing I am hoping to see more of in the final games is the 4-5 (PF-C) pick-and-roll.
They ran a ton of it during both the Utah and Las Vegas summer leagues. And the number of games left in this NBA season is only one more game than Collins played in those summer leagues.
Collins successfully executed the action with Alpha Kaba against the SL Trail Blazers.
There are several reasons I am hoping to see more of this as the season winds down. Opposing teams have been increasingly cross-matching their big defenders versus the Hawks to put their biggest defender on Collins. There is no reason to expect less of that next season. The 4-5 pick-and-roll is a way to attack that matchup and allow Collins to work against the smaller defender.
It is also a way to let Collins work on improving his playmaking instead of just waiting until opposing team deploy the trap against Young. Additionally, it’s a way to reduce a bit of Young’s workload in games during which backup point guard Jaylen Adams struggles to play well enough to stay on the court.
This is one of the two examples of Atlanta having run this action. This was clearly drawn up during the quarter break as this is the first possession of the fourth quarter in a game in Orlando on March 17. Magic big men Aaron Gordon and Khem Birch are almost exactly the same size, but Gordon has significantly better vertical ability. The Hawks use the screen from Alex Len to allow Collins to attack the less athletic defender, unsuccessfully so in this case.
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence they ran that play to start the fourth quarter because the only other time they had opted to run the play was to allow Collins to attack Birch during a February 10 home game. It was successful in this case.
It was a different way of setting up the play. On this possession, Young and Collins essentially exchange positions and run a “horns set”, but the action was certain to be planned for Collins to dribble into the screen of Dewayne Dedmon.
There have also been a handful of times that Collins has executed a pick and roll in ad hoc scenarios. He does so with Taurean Prince on this possession versus the Clippers. He successfully splits the defenders and finds Alex Len for the dunk. This play demonstrates an amount of competence that suggests he could handle more of this.
But, specifically because of the defensive cross-matching opposing teams are doing as to try to contain Collins, I’m hoping to see some of the, to date, rare 4-5 pick and roll actions.