Atlanta Hawks

John Collins looks good but hype train needs to slow down a bit

John Collins poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the Atlanta Hawks as the 19th pick overall during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Who has two thumbs, is one of the most beloved players in the Las Vegas Summer League, and dunks the ball more times than a cop dunks his donut in a coffee?

Atlanta Hawks rookie John Collins is having an amazing summer league. There really is no other way to describe it. The former Wake Forest Demon Deacons big name is averaging a double-double, putting other youngsters on posters, and seems destined to become a good Paul Millsap replacement in the ATL.

I really want to buy in on his stock. And yet, here this Internet Scribbler finds himself a bit worried about taking his summer outings and parlaying that to professional basketball dominance.

Collins is coming off a sensational collegiate season. He averaged 19.2 points at Wake Forest while shooting 62 percent from the field. He also snagged 9.8 of the mostly manly of man-made rebounds per contest. All gaudy and impressive numbers, at least at the unpaid laborers level.

The rebounding should translate to the NBA. It usually does. Especially when you couple Collins’ production with his 7-foot wingspan and athleticism. Add in the high energy he brings to the table, and bar being a foul-causing monster, he should do well on the glass.

As far as his ability to get buckets with the insane efficiency he has shown in college and at the summer league, it is here we should pause for concern.

Collins scores the majority of his baskets by way of his hands inserting the ball in the cylinder with great force and some violence. He’s a dunker. Nothing less than a vivacious, dastardly dooming human who can use his size and brute strength to acquire two points even if opposing humans are draped all over his body:


That is great. It is also not entirely indicative as to what a well-rounded big man should look like in the NBA. Nor is it a sign that Collins is going to become the next (insert hyperbolic comparison).

Much of the Collins hype stems from his monstrous outing when he went (often) head-to-head with projected prolific scoring rookie Lauri Markkanen. In no more simple terms, Collins ate the Chicago rookie’s lunch during a random July day.

Collins outrebounded, outscored, outhustled … pretty much out-everything’ed Markkanen. It was then when people began to jump on Collins’ bandwagon as if there were Christina Ricci clones inside who were just looking to date middling bloggers.

That’s fine, though it removes some context. Markkanen is a poor rebounder and even worse defender. By nearly every scouting report available, Collins entered that game favored to win the one-on-one matchup in every aspect, save for total points scored, which Collins won — and that was a bit of a shocker.

Still, one summer league game doesn’t define a player. Specifically, not one who has obvious flaws with his footwork in the post and hasn’t actually shown a growth in his game.

Numbers never lie, yet they can be misleading.

Collins has been stuffing stat sheets all summer, and this should provide Atlanta fans with a true sense of optimism. At the same time, since so much of his dominance has come by way of the dunk, there has been little evidence he has improved in areas that should justify this putting of him on this hyperbolic pedestal.

He can still become what many are already saying he is, this dynamic big who can be an important member on a good roster to the point he’ll develop into a future borderline All-Star. For me, using what we have seen just so happens to be hustling backward.

This is a lot of projection at the moment and almost all of it stems from dunks. Just dunks. The same kind of offensive style Dwight Howard gets killed for because he never expanded upon his game on that side of the ball — which, to be fair, Collins obviously has more time to do just that.

Greatness may await for many of the rookies who looked amazing during the summer league. No one will say any different. But given — at least — the idea that Collins isn’t doing anything new with his game and simply dominating with his already next-level skill set against inferior competition, it might be time to pump the brakes on this hype train … at least for the time being.

Everything is relative. Jordan Bell “is having a great” summer because he’s a member of the Golden State Warriors, is blocking shots like points are against the law, and doing so under the guise of not being as highly touted as John Collins. This backlash to his hype — and, mind you, this isn’t actual backlash to it — could be relative to Collins’ pre-NBA draft slotting.

So, while I admit to probably using a predetermined set of expectations against Collins in evaluating him, it seems like fair game. Again, only for the time being.

We can revisit this all, you know, when it actually matters and the majority of the players wearing uniforms aren’t future non-NBA players.

Joseph has been covering basketball for nearly a decade. He is the host of the Relatively Speaking Podcast and a columnist for FanRag Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.

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