Nate McMillan urges Atlanta Hawks star to do more

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Hawks didn’t get the outcome they wanted, falling 114-102 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were on the road where they have now gone 4-4 this season so the game was always a toss-up in that regard. But there were still a few positive signs that, hopefully, they can build on going forward.

One of those developments was the return of John Collins’ three-ball at least for this contest as he knocked down 3-of-5 deep looks on his way to 16 points.

He didn’t have his usual impact on the glass with just two rebounds to go with a pair of steals.

But it was his long game coming on that stood out to Hawks head coach Nate McMillan. So much so that the Hawks boss made it a point to suggest that Collins embrace the role he seems to profile well for.

Atlanta Hawks’ John Collins urged to do even more by Nate McMillan

“Yea, I thought we did get him involved more,” McMillan said during his postgame media availability. “John is capable of scoring, not just inside, but outside. I think he is a good three-point shooter. We can spread the floor with him and I would like for him to take more attempts.”

Coming into the contest, Collins was shooting 6-for-41 from beyond the arc over his last 14 games after going 5-for-6 over the Hawks’ first two games.

Much like his usage, Collins is shooting a career-worst 26.9% from beyond the arc this season.

But this is a player that, in addition to having a 20-point, 10-rebound season to his credit, has also shot over 40% from beyond the arc for an entire campaign. A finger injury adversely affected Collins last year and he has put in extra work with Hawks assistant Kyle Korver.

Perhaps this is a sign of a turnaround for Collins who has also embraced more of his defensive responsibilities as he searched for his shot. He was also not alone in struggling with his three-point shot. The Hawks rank 27th in three-point efficiency on the 29th most attempts in NBA.

“I believe in our guys shooting the basketball. And I believe the percentage is going to go up. We have to continue to attack and force the defense to collapse and move the ball, share the ball as we did tonight. Those shots, I expect the percentage to go up.”

They ranked just 18th in attempts last season – a sizeable dropoff this season, for sure.

But they ranked second in three-point efficiency last season – and only slightly – behind the team that gave them so much difficulty in the postseason, the Miami Heat.

The Hawks remade their bench this summer, losing Danilo Gallinari (38.1% on 4.5 attempts) as well as Lou Williams and Delon Wright who combined to shoot better than 37% from deep. They also traded away Kevin Huerter who shot 38.9% from deep on 5.6 attempts per game.

That’s why the efforts of Collins and his teammates were so key despite the outcome.

“Tonight, JC was knocking down shots as well as AJ [Griffin]. And Jalen [Johnson] shot the ball with confidence tonight and was able to knock down a couple threes.”

Griffin logged his first career start tallying 17 points on 63% shooting overall and 3-of-6 triples with three steals and two rebounds. The performance snapped a 2-for-12 slump that had spanned the three previous games for the 16th-overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft who is now shooting 38.1% from downtown.

Johnson has struggled from three even worse than Collins at 20% on the year. This was his first multi-three game of the season.

The biggest development on that front, though, is Collins finding his range followed immediately by McMillan’s urging. The Hawks need to space the floor around Trae Young but especially around a slasher such as Dejounte Murray.

Murray had connected on multiple threes in eight of the Hawks’ first 10 games.

He is just 6-for-30 since then with zero multi-three games to his credit. His scoring is also down with just two 20-plus-point performances in that span after eight in the previous stretch.

Murray’s shooting should rebound some. But getting the proper spacing from Collins and De’Andre Hunter (36.5% on 3.5 attempts) is paramount to the Hawks reaching their ceiling with this group.

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It’s also no small thing that Collins was able to do this amid constant trade speculation as he has dealt with over the past few seasons. He hadn’t had to break out of such an extended slump however and the new look of the Hawks has raised expectations.