Hawks’ John Collins Makes Rising Stars Game, Snubbed by Dunk Contest

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 8: John Collins /

Atlanta Hawks rookie John Collins has been recognized by the NBA for his stellar play throughout the first 50 or so games of the 2017-18 season, and he will play in the Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game on Friday, February 16 at 9:00 p.m. EST.

The game used to be a rote Rookies vs. Sophomores showcase, but the format has been tweaked in recent years, with the teams being composed of the best players who have one year or less of career experience in the league, divided between Team USA and Team World.

JC will play for Team USA, which is led by a trio of promising Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Collins will also get to play beside his former workout partner and friend Donovan Mitchell, who has exploded onto the scene with some gravity-defying dunks and meteoric scoring totals.

Here are the full lineups for both teams:

Collins will be the only player on Team USA that is listed as a center by the NBA, so he will hopefully play big minutes and showcase his myriad skills on a huge national stage.

Team World is headlined by three of the best players on the Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. The International team looks to have a size advantage, but Team USA has some players who can provide truly awe-inspiring highlights.

In other news, the Verizon Slam Dunk participants were announced, and, sadly, Collins was overlooked. The participants will include Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Larry Nance Jr. and Dennis Smith Jr.

While this is a fine field full of high-flying athletes, John Collins is 10th in the league in total dunks with 80 and he would pace these Dunk Contest participants in that category if he had been included.

Aaron Gordon is first among this field with 58 dunks, though Nance Jr. is hot on his heels with 57. Oladipo lags behind with 41 and Smith Jr. does not even register in the top 50 in total dunks this season.

DSJ has had his fair share of highlight throwdowns, but Collins has played more consistently above the rim and it’s truly a shame that he was snubbed an invite to participate in the dunk contest in his first year in the league.

That’s fine, though, since Collins is actually contributing to winning basketball – leading the Hawks in Player Efficiency Rating (21.1, which is also highest among rookies) and win shares (3.7). Ben Simmons just edges him in the latter category among all rookies with 3.9 win shares – with the caveat of having played some 650 more minutes than JC.

Smith Jr.’s stats in those categories, you ask? 13.2 PER and -0.3 win shares.

I doubt Collins is bothered by this snub, however. He will continue to put his “John the Baptist” nickname to good use by throwing down immense posters like this one from the Hawks’ most recent game against the Charlotte Hornets:

Next: Atlanta Hawks Youth Movement Part 1: The Rookies

Stay tuned for more John Collins news and coverage of the Rising Stars game when it occurs in less than 2 weeks.