Atlanta Hawks star John Collins is starting to grow into his role

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks have built a very strong roster over the last four and a bit seasons. It all started with the supremely talented and athletic John Collins who is now the Hawks’ longest-tenured player. He is the unquestioned starting power forward, even with veteran Danilo Gallinari on the squad.

Despite being on the team the longest, Collins’ role has been the hardest to define, given how much it has changed in his time with the franchise. He was obviously a very special player making the All-Rookie team, averaging 10.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 24.1 minutes per game.

His development over the next two seasons saw him grow into a player who averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds in his third year. These players are hard to come by but the Atlanta Hawks were still losing basketball games, so in the 2020 offseason they added some experienced players.

How are the Atlanta Hawks using John Collins now?

Since the veterans and last season’s rookie Onyeka Okongwu arrived, Collins’ role has changed. While he still plays some small-ball center, since Okongwu returned to the lineup, Collins has been playing this role a lot less which is the right thing for the team. He is a tremendous weakside defensive helper but not a defensive anchor.

This is the second area that Collins has had a slight change in role. Instead of being the primary rim-protector, he is being used to help near the rim when the perimeter defenders get beaten. Clint Capela is still the primary paint defender when a player comes into his area, but Collins appears out of nowhere to block shots.

His rebounding role has also changed. Since the arrival of Capela, Collins has seen the rebounds dry up as Capela is the primary rebounder on the team. However, when Capela is drawn out of the point to defend or challenges a shot Collins has shown the ability to have his back, helping his fellow big man out.

He is also a big part of the heartbeat of this team. You see, the Hawks need the aggression of Collins be it on defense or delivering a thunderous putback dunk over the opposition’s best player. He is a spark that teammates feed off.

However, his impact does not end there. Offensively his shooting helps space the floor for Capela and Okongwu to go to work inside. He is able to pass the ball well as a big man to both these players so that they can finish at the rim. A big to big alley-oop is able to spark the crowd and his team almost as much as Collins finishing an alley-oop from Trae Young.

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So, what is Collins’ role that he is growing into? The answer to this is simple, yet complex. He is so talented that his role is to give the starting unit what it needs as the game dictates. This means that his numbers are going to fluctuate, be it getting a double-double or barely scoring or leading the team in assists. Collins will continue to grow into this role as his career progresses and he understands how to take what the game gives him to a greater degree.