Is John Collins Essential To This Hawks Team Anymore?

Atlanta Hawks' Power Forward, John Collins. Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

On August 4, 2021,  John Collins reportedly agreed to a five-year, $125M deal to stay with the Atlanta Hawks, per excelbasketball agents. Sean Kennedy and Jeff Schwartz were the first to report this information to ESPN. Fast forward almost two years later and this re-signing gives many Hawks fans the “ick.” Not the “ick” in the idea of sickness, but closer to the feeling Nets fans felt when Kevin Durant left his pinky toe on the three-point line against the Bucks a couple of years ago. 

Nonetheless, the signing made sense at the time. The Hawks’ roster as a whole was young and full of potential. Not to mention the team just came off a near NBA Finals appearance the previous year before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks 4-2. So, sure, why not resign one of your core pieces in Collins? 

Fast forward to the following 21-22 season and the Hawks are struggling. Collins got paid, but what happened down the stretch of that year set him back. In March 2022, right as the playoffs were ramping up, Collins severely injured his pinky. Before injuring his pinky, he averaged 16.2 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. The playoffs began and Collins hasn’t been the same since. In the playoffs that year he averaged 9.4 PPG and 4.6 RPG. Fast forward again to the current year and Collins has continued to disappoint. 

He’s averaging 12.9 PPG on 51% from the field, but shooting 26% from the three. He hasn’t been able to replicate his pre-injury performance and this Hawks’ team is missing his presence of the past. Now, from a statistics perspective, it’s easy to assume that the 51% from the field is efficient, but it’s quite the opposite. His 13 PPG aren’t moving the needle for this Hawks’ team and in the league today it’s imperative to be able to stretch the floor with a somewhat efficient three-point shooting four or five. His rebounding is down as well. A key statistic to look at when observing how a player is performing is to take a look at how many free throws they attempt per game versus previous years. In Collins’ best year statistically, he averaged 21.2 PPG and 10.1 RPG. He even shot 58% from the field and 40% from the three. His free throw percentage was at 80% as well. He was the Hawks’ second option behind Trae Young and the team seemed to have drafted a piece that was part of a solid core for years to come. He was as efficient as ever. 

This is why his struggles of late are so staggering. He was a good two-way stretch forward that could shoot. Now, Collins is killing the Hawks not only offensively and defensively, but mostly contractually. His 5-year, $125M deal is eating the Hawks’ cap space and he’s not living up to that kind of deal. His trade value is depleted and the Hawks seem to hate playing with each other. 

The Hawks have issues and this is at the top of their concerns. With just a couple of weeks left in the season, the Hawks seemed destined to be a play-in team. If they win the play-in tournament they’re likely to face off against the Bucks, Celtics or 76ers. None of which this team is ready to play in the first round of the NBA playoffs.