John Collins comes into the 2017 NBA Draft as one of the best offensive big men in his class. While he’s a bit undersized at 6’9 1/2, and has a limited 6’11 wingspan, his athleticism and highly efficient post game could help him develop into a productive offensive player in the NBA.
Collins played two seasons at Wake Forest, averaging 19.2 points per game his sophomore season while shooting 62.4 percent from the field. He averaged 9.8 rebounds, with 3.8 of them coming from the offense glass, and, for what it’s worth, averaged 1.6 blocks per game.
Almost everything to like about Collins comes on the offensive end. He was highly productive scoring in the post, and his True Shooting Percentage of 67 percent was highest in the NCAA.
Collins does a good job of positioning himself in the post. He positions himself early and gets low, which gives him an advantage over defenders:
He combines good fundamentals with above average athleticism, which allows him to score on lobs, and finish high above the rim. He can operate in pick and roll situations, and does a good job cutting to the rim. In transition, Collins was effective running the floor, which made him a reliable rim runner for the Demon Deacons. All of this is remarkable, given that most players his age (he’s 19) are still developing the finer points of their offensive post game. While there is certainly more room for development, Collins doesn’t appear to be a player that will need extensive work on his offensive game, unlike many prospects his age.
Finally, Collins is an aggressive rebounder on both ends, and will chase down loose balls. Once he is able to get stronger, he should be an even better force on the glass.
Where he needs to improve
Defensively, Collins had trouble with the speed of the game. As Mike Schmitz and Josh Riddell for Draft Express stated:
He looked hopelessly lost at times while struggling to read the floor, which led to him giving up bucket after bucket. He had a tough time moving in space to stay in front of dribble penetration or his man cutting to the rim and didn't always fight hard to get back into the play after he was beat, an issue that plagued Wake Forest's entire team last season.
Additionally, Collins struggled to stay out of foul trouble, averaging 3.0 fouls per game last season. Defending without fouling won’t get any easier at the NBA level, which means until he learns to do so, he may struggle to see time on the floor.
There is hope he can improve on this end, however. His athleticism made him a good weakside shot blocker, and if he can improve in other areas, his offense could compensate for his struggles on defense.
He also needs to improve his outside shot. His mid-range jumpshot wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t utilized enough, and realizing his full potential on the offensive end will likely depend on whether he can score outside the paint. One shot he appears to be comfortable with already is a post-up, fadeaway jumper, as seen here:
His shooting mechanics are pretty good, which bodes well for his potential as an outside shooter.
His fit with the Hornets
If the Charlotte Hornets are looking for a post scorer with potential, Collins could be the guy. He does the things Cody Zeller does well (pick-and-roll, run the floor, score in transition), but could also develop into a reliable post up scorer, which they haven’t had since Al Jefferson. But while he appears further along offensively than most players his age, its a uncertain whether he’d be a productive NBA scorer his rookie season.
Additionally, his weaknesses on the defensive end would likely prevent him from seeing the floor under Steve Clifford (and quite honestly, among most coaches). If the Hornets were in the midst of a rebuild they could throw him on the court and let him learn through his mistakes, but since that’s not the case, he likely wouldn’t see the floor until he improved on defense.
While he’s a talented player, and one of the better big men in the draft, he may not be exactly the type of player the Hornets are looking for, and he almost certainly won’t be the best player remaining at 11. That said, there’s a lot to like about his offensive potential, and given the Hornets lack of a post scorer, he’s worth considering if that’s the route they want to go.