With a new season comes new goals and new hopes for every team. For the Atlanta Hawks, this season will be about forming cohesion with a select group of younger players.
Yet, that plan has already hit an unexpected bump in the road before the season even gets underway. Last season’s rookie dynamo John Collins will be sidelined until October 22nd (when he gets re-evaluated) with an ankle injury after an MRI revealed mild inflammation in his left foot leading him to undergo a non-surgical procedure.
The importance of Collins’ development to both the present and the future of the Hawks franchise cannot be understated. Ever since summer league, it has been readily apparent that the Hawks want to get Trae Young and Collins in sync as quickly as possible.
The reasons go beyond the two players being their first selections in each of the last two drafts; the two players have complementary skill sets. Collins is at his best when he’s rolling to the rim or cutting to through the lane and Young is a passing maestro with range as deep as any player in the league today. Pairing those two in high ball screens not only allows them to get the most out of their abilities, but it also opens up the floor for everyone else.
In a best-case scenario, Collins is given the all-clear following his examination on October 22nd and only misses three games. Worst case scenario, the ankle issues linger and Collins misses opportunities to get on the same page with Young and we start back at ground zero next year.
Taken 19th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, Collins was solid in his opening NBA season. Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum were highlighted as the top of their class. Those two got the postseason to fortify their status as two of the best up-and-comers in the league. However, when comparing Collins’ rookie year with those two you see that the three had similar impacts on the court.
Carrying the momentum from his rookie year into his second season could prove crucial for Collins’ development. Collins’ 1.64 wins added in 2017-18 ranks him as a “Role Player”. Atlanta is going need him to rise out of that category quickly. Missing a chunk of time due to injury isn’t getting him out of the “Role Player” category.
PIPM Jump In Year 2 For Future Stars
There are several recent examples of power forwards who had similar starts to their careers and showed their potential with a noticeable leap in year two. Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge’s PIPM numbers as rookies are in-line with Collins’ negative 0.7 marks from last season. A jump into the 1-2 range could help spell future stardom down the line for the former Wake Forest product.
Atlanta isn’t expected to do much this season in terms of wins and losses, however, for a player like Collins, this seasons holds the potential to turn him from good to great.