Before superstar Trae Young joined the Atlanta Hawks, they had power forward John Collins, a promising, athletic, first round pick out of Wake Forest that was meant to serve as a cornerstone foundational piece for their rebuild project.
Fast forward to the summer of 2022, and John Collins has been at the forefront of various trade rumors dating back several months. Prior to the NBA Draft, speculation began to mount around the possibility of Collins being included in a trade package to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for guard Dejounte Murray.
However, once Murray was acquired from the Spurs in exchange for Danilo Gallinari and three first round draft picks, Collins’ name crept back onto the scene once again in July when the Hawks were rumored to be pursuing a trade with the Brooklyn Nets for Kevin Durant. Much like the first rumor, the second didn’t come to fruition, and Collins has remained a Hawk.
Having one’s name on the trade block is a concerning sign from a player’s standpoint. It illustrates that the trust and investment a team has for you is not only being questioned but is also being directed elsewhere, casting a lot of uncertainty about the role and foothold a player has on the team.
That all said, until a trade actually happens, there’s nothing to lose when you’re in that position. And the best approach you can take is to put in your all to get better any which way you can so that maybe, the team reconsiders their initial interest in trading you in the first place.
For Collins, this is very applicable. Possessing several great strengths as a scorer and rebounder as is, Collins has areas of his game that could use some refining and, ultimately, make him too good to trade away for the Hawks. However, what does the soon-to-be 25-year-old need to improve in order to hold onto his role and job in Atlanta?
Here are the two biggest factors that Collins needs to work on if he stands a chance to be on this team for the entirety of next season.
Two Keys for Collins in 2022-23
Defense is one of the most important skills you can provide as a player. Because the league has gotten so challenging to contend in with the amount of offensively gifted stars that decorate it, a strong defensive skill set is sometimes exclusively good enough for teams to keep you on their rotation period.
This is an area that Collins could benefit from improving. Though he stands at 6’9” and weighs in at 235 pounds, Collins has frequently been an easy target for big men to post up on, and to make matters worse, he stands too tall when staying in front of his opponents, often allowing players to beat him off the dribble or even shoot over him.
Moreover, Collins’ has struggled to sharpen his defensive awareness, and as a result, it’s impacted various facets of his game. For example, Collins has demonstrated a lackadaisical approach when playing pick and roll defense, whether it’s overcommitting too high and failing to roll or not recognizing the pick and pop from his man that leads him to sit too far down in the paint.
Lastly, Collins isn’t one to record many blocks per game, even though he possesses great bounce and athleticism. In fact, Collins has averaged just one block over the course of his five-year career, illustrating his lack of prowess with protecting the rim and closely contesting shots.
Should Collins polish his defense and increase his success rate by forcing stops and turnovers, he will be difficult to trade away. Considering the Hawks don’t have a lot of reliable, concrete defenders, Collins could use this opportunity to improve his defense and show why he’s not worth trading away just yet.
Aside from improving his defense, Collins could also add to the range of skills and strengths he’s developed so far. Though Collins does come with his fair share of versatility, he could bring more to the table, particularly for a team with great scorers and good rebounders (which are his top two strengths).
Naturally, defense is a part of this conversation. But an additional two aspects of his game that Collins could sharpen are his three-point shooting and passing. One of the most important parts about having an offense succeed is spacing the floor and creating high-percentage shot opportunities your team can knock down nine times out of ten.
And Collins hasn’t been very proficient with both his shooting from behind the arc and his ability to make the extra pass when needed. After he posted an impressive 40.1 3PT shooting percentage in 41 games played during the 2019-20 season, Collins’ 3PT attempt output remained the same over the last two seasons (3.3), but his percentage from behind the arc dipped since, finishing the 2021-22 campaign with a 36.4% average on the year.
In addition, Collins has to assess defenses better when he has the ball in his hands. Collins loves to use his body and physicality to post up and create space, but it gives ample time for defenses to crash down on him to force turnovers or stops he could have avoided had he passed the ball before they arrived.
Little things like this can go a really long way for a player’s growth on a team that has the potential to be special. And with the season still a little over a month out, Collins has plenty of time to put in the work and build on these skills that could make him a keeper for the 2022-23 season.
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