With the 19th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected John Collins from Wake Forrest University. Collins was widely expected to go much earlier than the Hawks’ pick at 19.
But after a mild slide, newly minted General Manager Travis Schlenk gladly made the decision to select the 6 Foot 10 Inch Power Forward.
Collins averaged (19.2) Points Per Game and (9.8) Rebounds Per Game in his sophomore season at Wake Forrest, which was a major leap from his Freshman campaign posting (7.3) Points Per Game and 3.9 Rebounds Per Game.
During the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Collins threw down thunderous dunks and put up solid numbers on his way to earning First-Team All Summer League honors.
Collins’ performance raised not only the eyes of Hawks fans but the expectations for the 19-year-old. Having high expectations as a rookie, Collins could potentially become a steal in this year’s Draft Class, but ultimately, could be a curse for a Hawks roster in the midst of a rebuild.
The initial expectation was that Collins would become a project in Coach Bud’s scheme, learn and play sparingly at least initially in his rookie season. Following Summer League, there is now a perhaps unfair expectation that a rookie will replace the production of the departed four-time All-Star Paul Millsap who took his talents to the Denver Nuggets in Free Agency.
Personally, I like what I’ve seen from Collins. I love his athleticism, the motor he plays with, his ability to rebound, defend, play as a cog in a system, and his intangibles are high class. There aren’t many things not to like about the rookie.I fear Summer League has blurred what should be expected of Collins, at least early in his career.
Collins is not Millsap. He’s not a 4 time All-Star, yet, he doesn’t have the offensive versatility of Millsap, yet.
Another concern is Mike Budenholzer’s track record with rookies. Budenholzer’s a great teacher of the game, but he has shown a reluctance to trust rookies initially. This is most likely due to the complexity of the schemes that Budenholzers installs, leading to the Hawks addition of veteran players such as Nick Babbitt and Marco Belinelli.
Taurean Prince took time before he cracked consistent minutes last season, despite the struggles of Kent Bazemore due to the learning curve, which caused Prince at times to look unsure and lack a little confidence until late in the season.
Look for similar results from Collins.
It’s clear Collins can play as shown in Summer League, but one must temper their expectations when we consider how vanilla the Hawks’ system is during a Summer League game as a opposed to a regular season game night in November.
Collins has a high basketball IQ, a high motor, and otherworldly athleticism. There will be moments that will be positive and his learning curve may not be as steep as many other rookies, but he will need to be brought along slowly and carefully. When he becomes familiar with the system, Collins could be a lethal starter and could prove to be the heist of the 2017 Draft.