ATLANTA — John Collins could be a household name for any NBA fan one day. At just 21-years old, the Atlanta Hawks forward is averaging an Amar'e Stoudemire-esque 19 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Earlier this month the Wake Forest product was all over All-Star weekend in Charlotte. No, he wasn’t in the big game, but he was involved in the Rising Stars game and dunk contest.
“It had it’s ups and downs,” Collins told Amico Hoops after the Hawks beat the Phoenix Suns. “It was cool. A little disappointed, dunk contest, but I had fun.”
In surprising fashion the Hawks are now 20-40, and while that’s not a great record, it's better than people thought. They were supposed to be the worst team in the NBA. Instead they are 9.5 games ahead of a team like the Phoenix Suns. Yet the stellar play of Collins and rookie point guard Trae Young has not been given its fair share of credit. Being involved in some of the weekend’s major events gave them some more exposure.
“That was the main objective coming out the gate,” he said. “Get more exposure, or getting more recognition for our great play this year as young guys. I felt like that was definitely recognized nationally or league wide for sure.”
A lot of lottery-bound teams are worse than the Hawks, a credit to Collins and Young. Other teams have been rebuilding since the duo was in high-school. This is basically the first year of the rebuild in Atlanta, and the Hawks are surpassing expectations.
“That’s sort of our head start for next year I feel like,” Collins said. “We know now we can compete with these teams, and beat these teams. Our record shows we’re beating the bad teams. Young teams usually aren’t able to put together a lot of wins over the worse teams, but I think we have done that and it’s gonna give us that extra step.”
Collins is right. With another year of his improvement, Young’s improvement, and the rest of Hawks' young core learning from coach Lloyd Pierce (who also deserves credit) they could be a playoff bound team the next time you look up.
On top of all that, the Hawks will have at least one lottery pick, and likely two, in the upcoming draft.