What Could Change for John Collins in 2020-21?

We’re already at the sixth edition of Deep Dives! If you missed it, check out  Kyrie Irving (link here), Kevin Durant (link here), John Wall (link here), Jayson Tatum (link here) and Jonathan Isaac (link here). It’s a coincidence that it’s only been Eastern Conference players in these columns so far, but we’re headed out there again in this edition.

Follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher, and maybe I’ll take some requests at some point. I’m hoping to do a ton of these even as we head into the 2020-21 season, and will eventually do a player in the Western Conference.


John Collins’ 2019-20 was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. After five games to start the season, Collins was suddenly slapped with a 25-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. It was brutal for his fantasy owners, especially since most of them couldn’t even put him on IR. When he returned, Collins was one of the best players in the league as a top-seven player per game in standard nine-category formats. Here’s a look at his career stats over his first three years (via NBA.com; all stats via NBA.com unless noted).

Make it career-high averages in minutes, points, FG%, FT%, treys, boards, steals and especially blocks. We’ll get to the stats breakdown in a minute, but let’s go over Collins durability and address how he’s missed a decent amount of time over the last two seasons.

In 2019-20, Collins only missed one other game besides his suspension (a back injury in a back-to-back set). He had a left knee issue and a right hip strain in the preseason, but both were minor.In 2018-19, Collins entered the season with a non-surgical procedure on his left ankle to cost him the first 15 games of the season. He did miss one more game in December because of his left ankle, he missed two games in April for rest, and the flu cost him three games in March. He did also play through some right knee soreness in this season. Pretty solid considering for a guy who had that procedure in October just a couple weeks before the season started.As a rookie, he had an AC joint injury in his left shoulder to keep him out six games, and that troublesome left ankle cost him two games, as well. 

His injury history checks out for the most part excluding that left ankle. The Hawks did list him with left-ankle soreness a whole bunch in 2019-20, but the Hawks were one of the most probable-happy teams in the league. Assuming he doesn’t have a suspension again, Collins should be one of the safer bets for games played in the first few rounds because he’s so young (Jayson Tatum and Bam Adebayo are somewhat safer options after six, in my opinion). Collins was also playing a whopping 37 minutes per game over his final 18 games to also give him the added boost as a first-round guy.

Going into the 2019-20 season, John Collins was a very easy player to target in the early rounds based on how he and Trae Young clicked. In Trae’s last 30 games with Collins in the 2018-19 season, Collins had a per-36 line of 23.4 points, 10.6 boards, 1.9 dimes, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 treys. Once again in 2019-20, Trae helped Collins get to another level when they were on the floor together.

With Trae per 36 (915 minutes): 24.2 points, 11.9 boards, 1.4 dimes, 0.9 steals, 1.7 blocks and 1.7 treys on a 67.7 eFG%Without Trae (448 minutes): 21.6 points, 9.2 boards, 1.9 dimes, 0.7 steals, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 treys on 54.0 eFG%

In 2018-19, he also was way more efficient and scored more per 36 despite a usage rate hit. In 2019-20, Collins took way more shots at the rim next to Trae, and he somehow shot +18.7% better from deep. In 2018-19, Collins was way better at the rim by 10.3% with 5.8% more of his shots coming at the rim next to Trae compared to without him — also 5.9% better on treys. Obviously Collins won’t shoot almost 20% better from deep when he’s with Trae, but even if he cuts it in half he’s still going to be one of the most high-volume FG% guys in the league.

Adding to that, Collins increasing his 3-pointers to 1.4 per game from 0.9 in 2018-19 was one of the most impressive parts of his season. What’s more, the increase in his FG% made him the only player in NBA history to have a season with 1.3-plus treys per game with at least a 57.0 FG% (min of five games). This is all about shot quality for Collins, and he may have been in the best position in the league.

Collins really stayed in his lane as a 3-point shooter with 91.2% of his attempts coming off catch and shoot, and 74.8% of his attempts being wide open (defender six-plus feet away). He only had four 3PAs with tight defense (defender 0-4 feet away) and he was just 1-of-11 on pullup treys on the entire season. Collins was also assisted on 96.6% of his makes, which ranks fifth among players with at least 1.3 treys per game (P.J. Tucker, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Vucevic, Al Horford). He also wasn’t forced to take triples late in the shot clock with just 10.9% of his attempts coming with 0-7 seconds left on the shot clock, and Collins was killer on treys early in the clock at 26-of-52 (50%) with 15-24 seconds left on the clock. He also cut down on his two-point jumpers with 35.5% of his jumpers coming as twos in 2019-20 from 41.0% in 2018-19.

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Moving to the close-range shots, Collins was also a dunking machine at 2.9 dunks per game in 2019-20 from 2.6 per game in 2018-19. He was also much better on layups at 59.9% in 2019-20 from 56.5% in 2018-19. That helped Collins be the best FG% guy at the rim among the top-12 players in shots at the rim per game, which explains why he was still a top-three guy for the FG% per game over the course of the season (Rudy Gobert, Zion Williamson). That’s an unfair building block to your fantasy team with his 80.0 FT%.

Collins was also arguably the best roll man scorer in the NBA. He led the league in points per game as a roll man at 6.7 points and was the most efficient high-volume roller at 1.31 points per possession (AD second at 1.27 among top-14 rollers per game). Tied to that is Trae Young leading the NBA in PNR handler possessions at an absurd 15.7 per game, which is the highest recorded number since the NBA tracked it in 2015-16. Collins also only had 2.8 screen assists per game to not even put him in the top 35 in the league, so he made his screens count for points. You love to see it.

Back in the 2019 preseason, most analysts knew that Collins was going to be a fantasy stud on efficiency as a possible 20-10 guy and personally I had him as a second-round target, but what we didn’t know was that the defensive stats were going to show up. Back in 2018-19, Collins went about 500 straight minutes without a steal somehow in December and early January, and the blocks weren’t there either. Collins somehow had 0.3 blocks per game in January and February of 2019 at 30.1 minutes per game. Unreal for a PF/C and would make Z-Bo feel proud. Thanks to a late-season surge, he was able to elevate his blocks to 0.6 per game on the whole 2018-19 season.

Moving to 2019-20, he more than doubled his blocks per minute while dropping his fouls per minute. Part of that is because Collins really upped his blocks as a five (more on that in a bit), and a big trend was that he just lived on blocks as a rim protector in 2019-20. He had just 10.6% of his blocks come from eight-plus feet away (only 3.0% from 10-plus feet out), Collins’ 0.46 mid-range blocks per game is the second lowest among the top-14 shot blockers per game (Jaren Jackson Jr. at 0.39), and he barely blocked threes at 0.02 per game to tie for the lowest among the top-19 shot blocks (Brook Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge at 0.02). In other words, Collins’ absolutely needs to be near the basket to have blocks, and that brings us to the next factor… 

The addition of Clint Capela could impact Collins’ stats. Before the trade deadline and the acquisition of Dewayne Dedmon, Collins as a five man was blocking shots at 2.3 per 36 over a 404-minute sample. In the other 446 minutes as a four, Collins was at just 1.6 blocks per 36. Looking at the other stats, Collins at the five was at 23.0 points, 13.7 boards, 1.2 dimes, 0.7 steals and 1.3 treys per 36. His efficiency was similar as a four and the only real clear difference was his boards at 10.0 per 36 as a four.

When Dewayne Dedmon showed up on Feb. 9, Collins wasn’t playing quite as much five with 40.7% of his minutes coming at center (47.5% before). However, the splits were a little greater per 36:

As a four: 22.6 points, 8.9 boards, 1.7 dimes, 0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.4 treysAs a five: 26.2 points, 10.9 boards, 2.4 dimes, 0.9 steals, 1.9 blocks, and 2.1 treys

He’s still really good as a four, but the blocks really stand out again and he’s better as a five in every category except steals. If we knew Collins was set to play 24-plus minutes as a five, he’d be in the running as a top-10 pick in standard fantasy leagues. Plus, Capela only had 12.5% of his blocks from eight-plus feet away and he’s just as bad on longer-distance blocks as Collins. Capela had just 0.06 blocks from 14-plus feet to put him near the bottom among the top swatters. It’s going to be tough for them both to protect the rim, so Collins’ per-minute blocks as a four figure to take a decent hit. That leads us to the obvious question: how many minutes at the five will he get?

The Rockets were playing Capela at about 33 minutes per game in the last two seasons. Prior to that, he was at just 27.5 minutes per game in 2017-18 and just 23.9 in 2016-17. Considering Capela’s track record on health, the Hawks may not want to play him 31-34 minutes in most situations. Additionally, coach Lloyd Pierce has mentioned he has a tough decision on playing both Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter. The easiest way for Pierce to play both Huerter and Reddish would be to slide Collins to the five and De’Andre Hunter to the four (more on this below). However, the Hawks still have Dedmon on the payroll at $13.3 million for the 2020-21 season, so can they just scrap him out of the rotation? Probably not. And hey, there’s still a possibility of Skal Labissiere (restricted FA) and Bruno Fernando. Collins could still find a way to get to 10-15ish minutes as a five when Capela is healthy, and that would likely get into the 20s if/when Capela is sidelined. That’s still far from a lock because Dedmon has been a solid contributor when he’s out there, so a DNP-CD spot seems very unlikely right now. Capela has also struggled to stay on the floor in his career, so that’s another avenue for Collins to see more minutes at the five.

When Capela is on the floor, Collins should still be able to produce on offense. Last year, Capela only had a 15.7 usage rate when he played next to James Harden and Russell Westbrook. For what it’s worth, Harden had a much higher usage rate without Capela while Russ’ was slightly down. Comparing those two to other players isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but the Russ-Harden lineups were playing extremely fast without Capela at a 109.1 (106.6 with). The Hawks really only have one usage monster in Trae Young, and even improved Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter shouldn’t cut into Collins’ usage too much. He should still be in the low 20s like his 22.4 usage rate in 2019-20.

Both Capela and Collins didn’t need the ball in their hands much with both guys being in the bottom five for average seconds per touch among players with 30 minutes per game (90 qualifiers). Capela was also dead last in dribbles per touch at 0.27 with Collins not too far off at 0.53 for seventh lowest. On the other hand, one area Capela dominated on the stat sheet is paint touches, leading the NBA at 13.2 in 2018-19 and ranking second in 2019-20 at 12.3 (Deandre Ayton 14.6). Capela also saw just 0.6 post-ups per game in 2019-20 and 0.5 in 2018-19. That makes sense with the Rockets leaning so much on Harden and Westbrook, and Capela just cleaning up around the basket on at-rim opportunities. With Russ in the fold last year, Capela’s frontcourt touches overall fell last year and his paint touches account for half of his frontcourt touches, which is easily the highest percentage among the high-volume paint touch guys. Collins should still get his and again Trae for sure will, so it should be a similar impact with Capela cutting into the offensive touches.

The volume may be there, but it doesn’t set up exactly the same. Even on just a per-play basis when Collins does get scoring chances, the Capela presence is going to be a new thing for Collins. Collins was at 9.4 paint touches, but no other Hawk was even close with Alex Len at 5.6 as a Hawk (18.6 mpg), Dewayne Dedmon at 4.7 as a Hawk (23.3 mpg), Damian Jones at 4.4 (16.1 mpg) and Bruno Fernando at 3.5 (12.7 mpg). If you piece together the lower-minute centers, it’s not like Capela’s paint touches are too far off (still, pretty far off), but the bigger problem here is that Len and Dedmon can shoot it a little while Capela cannot. Of course, Capela is the one who is going to have to fit into the system, so it may be a tough adjustment for him. That said, it’s not going to be easy for Collins to deal with Capela near the rim on both ends.

If you watch a lot of Hawks, you probably know about the Core Five lineup of Collins, Trae Young, Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Hunter. It was a winning lineup for the Hawks with a +6.1 net rating over 205 minutes and Collins was an absolute monster when this lineup was out there, putting up a per-36 line of 24.8 points, 13.7 boards, 0.7 dimes, 1.2 steals, 2.8 blocks (!) and 1.1 treys on a 62/43/86 shooting line. Even that extremely young lineup had a 117.9 offensive rating at a 109.2 pace, and both of those numbers would be the best in the league compared to team ranks (Mavs 115.8 O rating, Bucks 105.4 pace). Even in a smaller sample, Pierce has to find a way to get this lineup out there every night, which would be great news for Collins’ fantasy upside. Maybe that lineup can get better on defense, too — it won’t take much. For what it’s worth, Cam, Hunter, Trae and Collins had a +3.9 net rating (115.0 O, 111.1 D) in a bigger 318-minute sample. If you swapped Cam for Huerter, it’s a -0.8 net rating over a 533-minute sample (#FreeCam, Cam will get a Deep Dive soon).

Even taking all of these on/off splits out of the equation, Collins went on a tear to finish the season. Over his last 27 games, Collins averaged 24.0 points, 10.4 boards, 1.4 dimes, 1.3 blocks, 0.7 steals and 1.5 treys on a 63/44/82 shooting line for an unreal 70.2 TS%. For nine-cat leagues, that made him the No. 5 player per game and No. 1 per game for total value thanks to a total-game edge. Here’s a look at his shot chart in this span:

Just ridiculous, and again you can see just how much he dominated in the paint. He also basically scrapped his mid-range game at under one shot per game in this span. Additionally, major props on shooting 44.3% on his above-the-break 3-pointers in this span. That ranks seventh in the NBA among the 92 players with 75-plus attempts from above the break over this span (Seth Curry, Terry Rozier, Doug McDermott, Collin Sexton, Jayson Tatum, Damian Lillard). He also scrapped his pull-ups at 3-of-15 (20%) in this span, too.

Among the guys covered in Deep Dives so far, Collins might be the trickiest to project. It’s crystal clear that being near the rim on both offense and defense are essential for him to be a first-round player in nine-category leagues again, and the team’s biggest addition does exactly that. That means we have to say adding Capela is a downgrade, or at the very least say there’s some concern it can affect him negatively.

On the other hand, Collins being insanely good over his last 27 certainly cuts into some of the downgrade. He was still able to do that with around 40% of his minutes at center, so it’s not like he was a slouch as a four on offense. He also gets a decent durability grade, he’s going to be 23 when we start next season, and the Hawks figure to contend for a playoff spot next season.

Collins is certainly going to have to trade off some of his twos for his 3-pointers. This isn’t exactly foreign territory and we’ve seen guys like Myles Turner, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brook Lopez and many others try to stretch the floor more because some of their teammates aren’t great shooters like Capela. The Hawks are still going to run the Trae-Collins PNR to death, so Collins should still be able to find his way to 20-plus points with ease.

The presence of Capela should cut into Collins’ output in blocks, so it might be tough for him to get into the top-10 territory again. Plus, Capela being in the paint should cut down on the shot quality for Collins’ treys, which means he’s probably not going to be able to get to 40-plus percent on those again. If I’m picking late in the first, I’d be looking at Tatum or Kevin Durant over Collins, but I’d still consider Collins as a top 15-20 pick in standard leagues. I had him as a second rounder last year even with the blocks concern (he was better at center to cause some of my optimism), so maybe he can get better there, too. If you draft a PG in the first round like Dame, Trae or Luka, Collins should be on your short list on the way back.

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