Atlanta Hawks to get major boost against reeling Brooklyn Nets

The Atlanta Hawks, surely still riding high from their return-to-action 136-119 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, could get a big boost for the tilt against the new-look Brooklyn Nets. Forward John Collins has successfully exited the NBA’s concussion protocol, per Lauren L. Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He entered the day with a “questionable” tag heading into Sunday’s tilt but has been upgraded to available.

Collins missed the big win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, though it was hard to notice given the 17-point margin of victory (136-119 Hawks). Trade deadline Saddiq Bey filled in admirably scoring 19 points and knocking down 3-of-5 triples.

It’s a small sample size, but the Hawks have a plus-13.4 net rating with Bey but without Collins, per Cleaning The Glass – better than the plus-1.5 net rating when the situation is reversed.

And yet, the Hawks should be thrilled to be getting the embattled big man back in the mix.

For one thing, Collins’ sample size is about 23 times as many games as Bey’s whose outstanding numbers would almost surely level out with more exposure. He currently technically leads the team in net efficiency differential but does not have enough minutes in Atlanta to qualify for ranking.

Star point guard Trae Young (naturally) leads the way among those that do count. But Collins is second on the team among qualifiers – ahead of both De’Andre Hunter and Clint Capela who are third and fourth, respectively.

Even Dejounte Murray is fifth.

That speaks volumes about Collins’ efforts in what many consider to be his “worst” season as a professional.

Collins’ 115 offensive rating is indeed the lowest it has been since 2020 – ditto for where it ranks (58th percentile) – but his 113.4 defensive rating comes with the highest ranking of his career (63rd percentile). These are as close as a few percentage points in the case of the offensive rating, for example.

There has been one significant change to the way the Collins has been deployed.

Over the last two years, Collins has played less center – the result of Clint Capela being a strong presence inside and emerging big man Onyeka Okongwu’s selection in 2020, in particular.

Collins has gone from a 69-30 power forward-center split over his first three seasons to 90-10 over the last three.

Positions in the NBA are generally a matter of semantics – created so the layman could follow the game. Roles are a better way to describe the game today. But, with clear adjustments to the personnel corresponding to the high-flying big man’s drop-off, it would seem less than coincidental.

John Collins Was Ahead of the Curve on Atlanta Hawks Leadership

One of the themes in the wake of Nate McMillan’s firing was players saying that there needed to be accountability. Capela and Murray spoke on the first day back from the All-Star break and highlighted that it was on the players to make good.

General manager Landry Fields followed a similar line of logic.

Collins received a lot of praise for his comments about guys in the locker room needed to grow up.

“I feel like that’s where you start, is putting people accountable to, not only their job but their expectations as men on this team,” Collins said via the atlhawksfans YouTube channel. “You know what I mean? It’s the NBA. We’re not in college anymore. We’re not in high school. We’re expected to come in here and be men, try to win basketball games.”

But Collins also spoke of McMillan perhaps being better suited for a more veteran group of players, saying this group needed a different kind of guidance, the kind they got in the first game under interim head coach Joe Prunty.

McMillan has openly said that he was more focused on winning games than developing players in-season.

It is also not completely clear if Jalen Johnson meant he “hadn’t had that” kind of coaching from Prunty in particular or in general. If it is the latter, it is damning of McMillan’s tenure but would also highlight a key gripe that Collins has had since at least last year.

We will have to see how Prunty chooses to use Collins if he indeed returns Sunday against the Nets who could only muster 87 points against the 11th-seeded Chicago Bulls on Saturday.