The Dallas Mavericks do not have enough talent around Luka Doncic. It is imperative that the team do a better job of providing talent to make his life easier. John Collins could do just that.
Collins is a restricted free agent following the Atlanta Hawks run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Conventional wisdom says that the Hawks would rather build on this success than let a key piece leave without compensation but the Hawks appear to be willing to do just that.
Hawks owner Tony Ressler recently made statements that appear to show that Atlanta is willing to move on from the talented big man if a large offer is made. The Mavericks could and should be the team to make that offer depending on what else happens this off-season.
Collins has absolutely phenomenal hands. Think Odell Beckham Jr. but playing basketball. Given the amount of passes that Mavericks fans (and Luka Doncic) have seen clank off the hands of would be finishers such as Willie Cauley-Stein over the last year, watching Collins would be a revelation. He doesn’t just catch all the passes he should, he catches some he shouldn’t.
He pairs these elite hands with elite finishing. The lowest percentage that Collins has shot from within three feet in his career is 73.2 percent. A career low 34.5 percent of his attempts came from within 3 feet this year as the Hawks retooled their offense and Clint Capela took up a ton of real estate within the paint.
Even with his average shot distance rising each year of his career, up to a career high of 10.9 feet per shot, Collins maintained elite efficiency with a 64.5 true shooting percentage. This is because Collins is also a very good shooter. Over the last two seasons he is a combined 142-of-355 on 3 point attempts for an even 40 percent. He is also shooting 81.9 percent from the free throw line.
Continuing on the shooting front, he is borderline elite but in a small sample as he prefers a more “Moreyball” approach of shooting the majority of his shots at the rim or beyond the 3-point line. He has shot 47.6 percent from 10-to-16 feet and 49.2 percent from 16 feet to the three point line over the last two years.
The volume is incredibly different so this is not a fair comparison but to give those numbers some context, Dirk Nowitzki shot 46.8 percent from 10-to-16 feet and 47.4 percent from 16 feet to the three point line over his career.
As with Kelly Olynyk, his strengths were entirely listed on the offensive end. That leaves the defensive end for his weaknesses. Collins is a tweener defensively. Despite his athleticism and a career high 1.6 blocks per game in 2020, Collins is not a rim protector. He does not have the defensive IQ to sort through multiple offensive actions and decide which are real and which are decoys.
He is also not quick enough to defend wings on the perimeter which is an increasingly important task for any big who is not a rim protector. He tries hard and he is certainly not stone footed on the perimeter but he is someone who gets attacked in pick and rolls and off the dribble once switched. He is the type of defender he would take advantage of on offense.
Fit with the Mavericks
Offensively the fit is perfect. He can both be the high volume ferocious rim runner that makes Luka’s game hum AND a shooter who can space the floor for him. The spacing Porzingis provides and its importance to Luka has been pointed out before, but Collins can couple that spacing with dynamic rim rolling.
Defensively the fit is less perfect. Unless Porzingis can rediscover his defense from prior to this season, he and Collins absolutely cannot play together. Given that they would be the Mavericks two highest paid players until Luka’s extension kicks in and then the second and third highest paid players, this is a problem.
Collins is not quite the liability his defensive reputation suggests though. The Hawks were 1.5 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with him on the court than off the court this year which is not a huge number for a player who brings such offensive fire power.
His fit with Porzingis may be questionable but his fit with Maxi Kleber is fantastic. Kleber’s blend of low-usage, high efficiency long distance shooting begs for a dynamic scoring front court partner who will utilize the space he creates to punish the rim. In 2020, Kleber showed flashes as a potential rim runner himself. Whether due to injury or scheme, those flashes were completely gone in 2021.
Collins would run every screen and roll with Luka while allowing Kleber to space the floor. He would also allow Kleber to return to his role as a rim protector which he flourished in prior to 2021.
Overall, signing Collins would be a concession to the idea that this team will never be a defensive power house. His signing would signal a full commitment to outscoring the opposition. Given how dominant this offense would likely be with him on the team, it just might work. If it doesn’t given how he would likely flourish here, he would add an asset that the Mavericks could later trade for future talent because this team just does not have enough.
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