The Atlanta Hawks were blindsided in November when it was announced John Collins would be suspended for 25 games. During his 25 game hiatus, the Hawks would go 4-21 without Collins. What would have happened to the Hawks season if Collins wouldn’t have been suspended?
Coming into the regular season, expectations were somewhat high for the Atlanta Hawks. While those expectations may have been too lofty for such a young team, the Hawks looked to be heading in the right direction after a long rebuild.
With the young core of Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter plus the two rookies, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, some fans and pundits saw the Hawks fighting their way into an 8th seed if the stars aligned.
Unfortunately, for the Hawks, their season got thrown into disarray when it was announced in early November that John Collins would be suspended for 25 games.
When the news came down that Collins would be out from the beginning of November until the middle of December, the Hawks had just gotten the season started. The Hawks were 2-3 in their first five games of the season when it was announced their second-best player would be missing almost a third of the regular season.
It was a devastating blow to the team depending on Collins to provide the scoring and rebounding support for Trae Young as the season went along. The Hawks would have to do their best to stay afloat without Collins.
At first, the team seemed to rally around the absence of Collins. In his first game out, the Hawks beat the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets in the first five games without Collins. After the Denver win, however, the Hawks would go on a long losing streak.
That streak dragged out to 10 games before the Hawks were able to notch a win against the Golden State Warriors three weeks later. The team would start another long losing streak before Collins was set to return, 7 games this time. Overall, the Hawks went 4-21 in their time without John Collins.
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Now, the “What If” of the season is how the Hawks season would look had John Collins not been suspended in November? As stated above, the Hawks went 4-21 without Collins in the lineup. That was a particularly tough stretch for the Hawks regardless of Collins.
Through those 25 games, the Hawks played 15 playoffs teams compared to 10 non-playoff teams. The 25-game stretch also included a lengthy West Coast trip that saw the team play the Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Nuggets, and Blazers.
It is fair to assume the Hawks would have fared better than the 4-21 record with John Collins through those 25 games in November and December. When John Collins was in the lineup this season, the Hawks were 16-26. The team played to a 14-23 record after the suspension concluded, much better than the 4-21 record that sank the Hawks’ season before it could get started.
With all of that said, the absence of John Collins wasn’t the only issue the Hawks had this season. The expectations from some before the season started were too high for a team with such a young core. The team was unlikely to compete for a playoff spot with so many minutes being given to three rookies, Hunter, Reddish, and Bruno Fernando. Hunter and Reddish were two of the top four in minutes played for the Hawks this season.
Even with Collins in the lineup, the Hawks still struggled to consistently win games. While it’s safe to assume the Hawks record would have improved had Collins not missed those games, it’s also safe to assume the Hawks would still be out of the playoff picture at this point of the season.
Injuries also plagued the Hawks this season. Kevin Huerter, Jabari Parker, and Trae Young both missed games due to minor injuries. The veterans that started on the roster, Allen Crabbe, Chandler Parsons, and Evan Turner provided very little to the team this season. DeAndre’ Bembry had a disappointing season. There were many factors to the Hawks’ struggles this season.
Despite all of those factors, the Hawks could have used the consistency of John Collins, who was averaging a double-double while he was on the floor this season. A season that could have been a step in the right direction for the Hawks turned in a wasted, stunted season instead.
Not all the blame should fall on Collins’ shoulders, but he can be blamed for a lot of the issues the Atlanta Hawks faced early on in the season.