The Hawks handily smushed the visiting Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday evening, by the score of 132–111. Because the Hawks haven’t been officially eliminated from the playoff race, and because their young players are doing cool things and steadily developing into useful NBA players, every time they win it can seem like they’re making one of those fun late-season runs where they start winning more than they lose and you can imagine the momentum carrying over into next season. Not so! They’re still pretty bad. But Trae Young is figuring it out, and Kevin Huerter looks like a player, and John Collins—well, see for yourself:
Collins is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds on the season, on 61 percent true shooting, and above average usage, and the Hawks are nine points per hundred possessions better when he’s on the court. He is a reliable spot-up shooter who can also cram home mega dunks; and he is a terrifying roll-man who also can space the floor around the arc. The Hawks have been led in total minutes this season by Young, who is a tiny rookie; then Huerter, who is also a rookie; and then by DeAndre Bembry, who thus far in his career has been the very definition of replacement-grade. What I am saying is, when John Collins has some bonafide rotation players around him, he is going to be a star. Which is a very cool thing to look forward to, because there can never be too many NBA stars who do stuff like this:
With any luck, Young will be the most prominent of those rotation-grade fellows. Putting a finisher like Collins on the court with a passer like Young is already paying dividends, even while Young is still broadly (and expectedly) a net negative. Check out this insane 60-foot alley-oop:
That’s the kind of highlight where Young and Collins might already be one of a tiny handful of duos across the league who can pull it off. In eight games since the All-Star break, Collins has bumped up his production to 24 points and 11 rebounds a night, on blistering 58/48/85 shooting splits. Yes, it’s a small sample, but for teams outside of the playoffs, this chunk of schedule is about getting excited about just these sorts of signals, of a young guy blossoming into something special. Collins doesn’t yet have the polished skills of Karl-Anthony Towns, and he’ll never have the hulking, terrifying mass of Joel Embiid. What he does have is incredibly quick feet for a guy his size, and a favorable relationship with gravity, and a growing rapport with a cosmic-brain passer in Young. It’s exciting as hell to think of what the Hawks could be with those guys refining their act over the next few years.