John Collins is a casualty of a Trae Young team
The benefit of employing Trae Young is consistent elite offense, but it also means you’re going to be playing a lot of four-on-five on defense. To alleviate Young’s defensive shortcomings, the Hawks acquired Clint Capela to mop up his defensive messes, but being hyper-focused on building around Young has led to Collins’ demise.
John Collins and Clint Capela can co-exist on a basketball court, but it has taken a sizeable chunk out of what made Collins a special offensive player. Capela offers no offensive value outside of screening and rolling. That’s fine for a defensive anchor, but Collins is also an incredibly gifted roll man.
John Collins’s elite trait is underutilized
In 2019-20, he led the Hawks in pick-and-roll roll man possessions per game at 5.1 and rewarded them with 1.31 points per possession and a league-leading 6.7 points per game. No player blended Collins’ scoring volume and efficiency, and it was a steady source of offense for him and the Hawks.
In 2020-21, Capela debuted for the Hawks, and Collins saw his roll man possessions cut in half to 2.5 per game as Capela soaked up 3.3 of the possessions per game for himself. Collins went from 6.7 points per game to 3.0 on roll man possessions. The loss of 3.7 points per game almost entirely explained his 4.0 drop in points per game.
In 2021-22, Collins experienced a tiny rebound in roll man possessions (2.7) and posted elite efficiency. His 1.44 points per possession were second in the league for players who averaged at least two roll man possessions per game. However, this season, Collins has seen his roll man possessions drop again to 1.8 possessions per game.
It’s not all that complicated to see what happened to Collins’ offensive production. He’s a league-average 3-point shooter, and he’s devastating in the pick-and-roll. The problem is he isn’t a center, and most centers can only screen and roll on offense. Collins needs to play next to a center on defense, centers need roll man possessions on offense, and Collins is a good enough shooter that he can also provide floor spacing. This is a convoluted way of saying that the Hawks likely made the right choice pushing Collins toward the periphery, and that’s why finding a trade could be so difficult.