NBA Trade Rumors: Should the Rockets pass or pursue John Collins?

N.B. Lindberg
Atlanta Hawks Media Day
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Why the Rockets should pass on John Collins

John Collins is a talented player, but he is also an incredibly difficult player to maximize. He’s a power forward that excels in the pick-and-roll as a screener. The problem then becomes, to get the most out of lineups with Collins, you need a rim-protecting center that can also space the floor. 

In essence, Collins raises many of the same problems that Christian Wood presented the Rockets last season. Although he is a more capable defender than Wood, he’s not good enough to be the lone rim protector, but his best offensive role is to operate like a center as a screen setter. 

The Hawks were acutely aware of his defensive deficiencies, which is why they traded with the Rockets for Clint Capela, and for a while, the two were able to co-exist. However, relegating Collins to more floor spacing duties takes away what makes him a dangerous offensive player in the first place. Spending $25 million on your fourth or fifth most involved offensive player when they’re not an elite defender is a waste of resources. 

There are teams that could credibly fit Collins into their offense, but they will likely have to make compromises, and he isn’t such a talent that you would want to part with assets and key pieces to do so. 

Another issue is that the Rockets don’t already have a killer pick-and-roll maestro to get the most out of Collins. His efficiency as a pick and roll roll-man is excellent at 1.28 points per possession, but that’s with him working off Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. As a supply-dependent scorer, the Rockets won’t get the highly-efficient Collins that the Hawks have squandered over the past few seasons. 

The final issue is fit. The Rockets already have their power forwards of the future in Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason. Smith, theoretically, could be the ideal center to pair next to Collins as a rim-protecting floor-spacing menace. However, he is years away from reaching that point, meaning their current skill sets wouldn’t maximize each other. If Collins were to come in, you’d likely be looking at moving Jabari to the bench. 

All told, Collins isn’t the type of player the Rockets should be targeting right now. He is a nightmare to build around, one of the reasons the Hawks have marginalized his role and are looking to trade him, and he doesn’t fit the team’s current core in a way that will foster positive development.