I would wager that everybody affiliated with Atlanta Hawks, including John Collins himself, would agree that the 2022-23 season was something of a disappointment for forward.
In his sixth season as a professional, Collins suffered the worst shooting slump of his entire career. After never shooting worse than 34% in any season from deep, his three-point shooting percentage plummeted to 29%, and that mark even rebounded after a late season climb. Collins finished the season scoring just 13.1 points per game, the fewest since his rookie season, as well as a career-low 6.5 rebounds per game.
John Collins played virtually the entire season with a wrap on the ring finger of his shooting hand from an injury sustained late in the 2021-22 season. From the beginning of this season until March 13th, Collins shot just 25% from three on 3.2 attempts per game. But from that date until the end of the season, he figured something out. In 12 regular games, he shot 44% from three-point range on 4.3 attempts per game, and then in the 6-game first round series against the Boston Celtics, he shot 34% on 5.6 attempts per game.
He began regaining his form from deep down the stretch of the season, even putting in some shots without a clean shooting pocket catch:
Still, it bears mentioning that he offers significant worth to franchise in so many areas. John Collins is the longest tenured Hawks after being drafted in 2017, is still an adept finisher at the rim and a solid defender, and is a positively boisterous voice in the locker room and with the media.
The peripheral shooting stats never wavered: an 80% mark from the free-throw line and a 62% shooting clip from inside the arc were both better than his career averages. But the arrival of Dejounte Murray further crowded out Collins’ shot volume, and partially as a result he sunk to a a career-low 17.1% USG rate this season.
Compared to previous seasons, Collins was involved in fewer play sets, increasingly being relegated to spotting up in the corner for catch-and-shoot attempts. Per Basketball Reference, he took the most corner three-pointers in his career (98), but shot the worst he had ever in a season (29.6%), a shot that is typically very efficient due to its shorter distance. In the same vein, he recorded the fewest dunks in his career in 2022-23 — an aspect with which bigs on the receiving end of Trae Young’s lobs almost never struggle.
So the picture is clear: Collins’ role in the team’s offense cratored this season. Some of it is the effect of Clint Capela as Young’s primary pick-and-roll partner occupying the same space in the front court. But also some of it is purely Collins’ own limitations as a dribbler and passer — as well as a temporary shooting dip.
The contract extension John Collins signed in restricted free agency after the 2020-21 season is seen a lightning rod for criticism. He inked a $125 million deal with a player option in the final year, and we’re just two years into that agreement at this point in time. Routinely a fixture in the trade rumor mill, I don’t expect the smoke surrounding Collins this offseason to change, even with him possibly at the nadir of his trade value.
Atlanta is always very conscious of both their financial position as well as a need to shuffle the deck after a second consecutive first round exit. With Jalen Johnson as the only other nominal power forward — although some of that role could also fall on De’Andre Hunter and Saddiq Bey — Atlanta will need a plan at that position should they pivot towards dealing Collins. But regardless of what happens between now and the start of next season, Collins’ intangibles, primarily his infectious energy and activity, would be nearly impossible to replace.