Season reviews presented in alphabetical order . . .
One of the Hawks’ odd organizational quarks is the insistence that Jason Collins is more than a specialist best suited for a narrowly defined role. Perhaps even weirder is how often that line of thinking has worked out for them . . . until it doesn’t.
Consider the 2012 playoffs. Larry Drew’s decision to start Collins against the Celtics in Game 1 seemed foolhardy but Collins had probably his best performance of the season in Game 1. He not only played good defense against Kevin Garnett but added six points and five rebounds in 32 minutes.
Collins’ production dropped off in Game 2 but his on-court, off-court was positive even as it became apparent Boston would focus more on attacking him with screen-rolls. Collins was OK in Game 3 but Drew’s faith in him had diminishing returns as Garnett abandoned his strange insistence on posting up Collins.
That Drew stuck with Collins as long as he did is an example of his tendency to give a long leash to veterans who have done anything positive for him in the past regardless of the negative things they are doing at the present (or, for that matter, the limitations suggested by their long-term history). That’s not to say the Hawks had any great options in the front court, especially after Ivan Johnson’s shaky outing in Game 2, but best to try something different when what you are using isn’t working.
I offer these critiques while acknowledging I thought it was a bad idea for the Hawks to bring back Collins in 2010-11. It seemed absurd that part of the reason the Hawks parted ways with Mike Woodson was because he didn’t play Collins enough minutes against the Magic in the 2010 playoffs. But it turned out Collins was a key part of the Dwight Defense in 2011. I also thought playing Collins significant minutes against the Celtics was a mistake but his play in Games 1 and (most of) 2 showed that he could help in small doses.
But if I’ve undervalued Collins at times, the Hawks continue to overvalue him. He’s still a solid post defender in certain matchups, though there’s evidence he’s slipping in that area: According to Synergy Sports Technology, this season Collins allowed .84 points per possession in 32 chances (141st in the league). His defensive on-court, off-court magic subsided even as his opponent PER was respectable.
Those defensive numbers (which, mind you, were accumulated in circumstances most favorable to Collins) would have to be much better to compensate for Collins’ career-long lack of offensive production and poor efficiency for a big man. There’s also the matter of Collins missing six weeks with an elbow injury, though that development had the effect of freeing up frontcourt minutes for Johnson.
Word is the Hawks will extend a tender to Johnson (as soon as they get around to putting a permanent GM in place) which probably would be enough to keep him. Perhaps that also would mean the end of the occasionally-fruitful-most-times-perplexing Collins era for the Hawks.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat