First, they love you. Then they hate you. And then, they love you again. It might not be exactly like that for Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins within the friendly confines of the team facilities – then again, it just might be. But it has certainly been a rocky road for Collins in the public eye as a player on a large contract who has, to this point, underperformed relative to expectations.
Collins has been a mainstay in trade rumors with several rival teams having interest and the Hawks reportedly taking calls on the high-flying forward.
They have been open to moving him since before re-signing him two years ago.
Now, coming off his best performance of the season, the Hawks may have stumbled across a novel idea for how to unlock the longest-tenured member of the team. And it was none other than one of the newest Hawks, Dejounte Murray, who revealed the not-so-secret secret.
John Collins gets strong vote of confidence from Dejounte Murray
“Giving him the ball,” Murray told Lauren L. Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Collins’ recent scoring surge that has seen him rattle off 20-plus points in four of the Hawks’ last five games. “Give him the ball. You can’t take five shots, seven shots, you gotta be in double-figure shot attempts. So he’s getting the ball.”
Collins has had double-digit field goal attempts in five of the last six games after notching 12 such outings in his previous 24 appearances. Collins has averaged 18.2 points on 61.2% true shooting with 10.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.3 assists in that span.
Unfortunately, it had not translated to much in the form of team success with the Hawks going just 3-5 since he returned from his eight-game absence with an ankle injury.
Collins did join Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins in amassing 8000 points, 2500 rebounds, and 300 three-pointers in his career.
To Murray’s point, however, he is getting the ball more.
Collins’ touches have gone from 44 per game before his six-game run up to 50.8 per contest in the aforementioned windows, per NBA.com tracking data. A large portion of those additional touches has come in the halfcourt offense and, more specifically, in the paint. The 6-foot-9 springy forward is mired in the worst shooting season of his career.
A 37.9% shooter from deep over the last four seasons, he is connecting on just 50.6% of his looks overall and a dismal 23.7% from beyond the arc this year. Collins has not hit multiple threes in back-to-back games since the second outing of the season, a 108-98 win over the Magic.
But he was more involved as a roller to the basket with encouraging results.
Collins has only finished plays as a roll man 13.8% of the time this season, well below his 18.6% mark from last season, and a solid candidate for why his season has been so bumpy.
The Hawks’ need for three-point shooting in the wake of adding Murray and shipping out Kevin Huerter created a need for Collins to shoot more threes to help space the floor opening up the lane for his dynamic playmakers. But the Hawks would do well to keep the big man involved and going to the basket.
That is especially true against teams with so little rim protection as the Kings have.
Hopefully, for the Hawks and Collins, this is a sign of things to come and not of what could be or some audition for Collins’ next team.