2016-17 Season Stats:
62.2% from the field
0% from three
74.5% from the free-throw line
Weight: 225 pounds. Height w/shoes: 6′10″. Wingspan: N/A . Max Vert: N/A
Poor man's, pre-Heat Chris Bosh
The lovechild of Enes Kanter and a string bean
Do you like lanky big men, with springs for legs, who block shots and are hyper-efficient? If so, John Collins is the man for you. The Wake Forest sophomore set the ACC on fire this year, ranking third in points per game at 19.2, and second in rebounds per game with 9.8. He also just posted one of the most efficient seasons in the NCAA since they began tracking player efficiency rating in 2009. Despite his sophomore status, he did this all at the precocious age of 19, younger than some of this year’s freshman class.
Collins led the country in PER this year at 35.9, a PER that ranks second in recorded NCAA history among players with as many minutes and games played as Collins and first among players from the Big 5 conferences, with Anthony Davis the only other player from a power conference coming in at over 35.
In other words, he was a monster and made the made the most of his shots.
He posted a usage percentage of 29.9 percent acting as the main threat of an above-average Wake Forest squad. The most remarkable thing about Collins is the efficiency he maintained while still using that many possessions. Despite that sky-high usage rate (for comparison it would rank 11th in the NBA this year, just ahead of Dwyane Wade), Collins hit an unreal 62 percent of his shots, leading the ACC in the process.
Collins tends to operate around the basket which helps him maximize his efficiency, per Hoop-Math.com, he attempted 58.8 percent of his shots at the rim. But he’s not just a one-trick pony down there. While his game is more predicated on smooth athleticism rather than brute strength, he operates in similar spaces as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Enes Kanter. He likes to lurk in the short corner as his guards penetrate, and then dart in towards the basket for an easy alley-oop as his man moves to wall off the drive.
Collins is listed as a power forward, but his NBA future likely lies as a Clint Capela type of center. At a long 6-foot-10, he has the requisite size to play the position in a league that is becoming smaller and smaller. His athleticism and bounce are frequently on display when he catches a dump off pass and rises up for a jam before the closest defender can react. He also has a great second jump, which allows him to excel as a rebounder (he is averaging 14.8 rebounds per forty minutes).
All of these features plus a pair of soft hands and nimble feet make it easy to imagine Collins as the roll man at the center of a pick and roll attack, with four shooters surrounding him.
While Collins tends to stay close to the basket, gobble up boards, and yam down dunks, he has shown soft touch and range out to about fifteen feet. The form on Collins’ jump shot actually looks okay for a guy with his profile. That, combined with his nearly 45 percent shooting on two-point jumpers and 75 percent clip from the free throw line this year makes it easy to envision him eventually extending his range to the corner three-point line eventually in the NBA.
On the defensive end, Collins shows some promise, but is still a work in progress. He blocks a decent number of shots; he averaged 1.6 per game this year. But therein lies one of his major flaws: he may try too hard. Collins averages 4.5 fouls per forty minutes, which is a far cry from the outrageous 7.4 he averaged per forty minutes last year, but still not great. In order to stay on the floor to make an impact, he’s going to have to curtail the fouls a bit.
That being said, I’d rather have a guy with Collins' athletic gifts try too hard than not try enough. An NBA coaching staff that can instill a little more discipline and technique in Collins will likely be happy with the end product, as he has all the requisite tools to be a plus defender at the rim.
The one major knock on Collins is that he is not much of a distributor, only assisting on 4.5 percent of plays he was on the court for. His apparent lack of court vision, combined with his trouble staying on the court, are indicative to some as a greater concern; that Collins lacks an innate feel for the game.
Collins likely profiles as a role player in the NBA and he will almost certainly have to tone back his usage upon entering the league. However, his combination of athleticism and efficiency is tantalizing, especially among the analytics crowd. ESPN’s Chad Ford has Collins currently slated to go in the fifteen to twenty range in the upcoming draft, but don’t be surprised to see Collins rocket up draft boards as we approach June. Even in a loaded draft, guys who have produced at the NCAA level like Collins with his athletic profile and age are hard to come by.
Interestingly, Capela’s current team, the analytically minded Houston Rockets, seem like an ideal fit for Collins should he fall that far, but he will likely be long gone by the time Houston selects.
Even though his game is somewhat limited, with his style of play he’s more dinosaur than unicorn. The NBA will never have a shortage of long, athletic dudes who can get buckets near the basket. Collins will find a home in the league and will likely be a very solid player. His efficiency at the college level though suggests that maybe, if he can become a little more versatile offensively, he could exceed that projection and become something more.
Collins is flying a little bit under the radar right now, but after the tournament ends and the pre-draft process gets underway, I expect this guy to get a lot more love. He has most of the Batman-utility-belt (maybe minus the Bat-radar) at his disposal and the production to boot.
Stay woke folks; don’t sleep on the sophomore from
(Woke?) Wake Forest.