(First posted at RealGM)
John Collins was not perceived as a draft prospect at the start of last season. His first appearance on a mock draft at Draft Express was in January and he was slotted 35th. Six months later, he’s now ranked 12th on the website’s top 100 and projected to be drafted in the lottery.
The six-foot-nine big man shot up the boards in the last few months after leading the NCAA in PER and guiding Wake Forest to an NCAA Tournament berth, averaging 1.68 points per shot and leading a team in offensive rating that ranked seventh in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency.
His measurements are unimpressive for a big man prospect and he played a back to the basket style that is unlikely to translate to the pros. His awareness on defense is also a serious concern for someone who will almost surely be viewed as a center in today’s game, given he’s yet to develop perimeter skills.
But Collins is an impressive athlete and posted a really strong statistical profile last season – averaging 28.8 points per 40 minutes on 30.4% usage while being responsible for creating most of his own shots, as 51.5% of his field goals were unassisted. He did so while playing the entire season at age 19, given his September birthday, despite being a sophomore.
Collins impressed with a good understanding of the importance of seeking a deep seal early in the shot clock but even if his teammates couldn’t dump the ball off to him quickly, looking to feed the post was the focal point of the offense at Wake Forest, so there were a lot of opportunities for him to showcase his skill-set.
He was strong enough to get consistently good position in the low block at the collegiate level and often had decent room to work with because his frontcourt partner, Kostas Mitoglou, could space the floor out of the three-point line.
Collins did very well on quick turnaround hooks and hopping into short-range jumpers, proving himself able to get his shot off from either side of the block when he operated quickly.
When he was forced to be more deliberate, Collins showcased some strength to back his man down, fluid footwork and nice touch on right-handed turnaround hooks. He also flashed a face-up jumper. Overall, Collins hit 44.8% of his 154 two-point field goals away from the basket and earned 10 foul shots per 40 minutes.
It’s questionable how much of his post scoring will translate in the pros, though. He’ll not be as imposing physically at that level and even if his shot fakes remain as effective as they were in college, NBA defenders have more length to make for getting unset and Collins hasn’t yet developed particularly impressive dexterity operating from a position of weakness, struggling to finish over bigger types.
He also struggles against more complex coverages, doing poorly when crowded and showing no instinct for recognizing double-teams midway through his move or from an unexpected angle, aside from the fact he’s a black hole at this point of his development – assisting on just 4.4% of Wake Forest’s scores in his 878 minutes last season.
Collins is more likely to produce on offense as an energy guy, relying on his athletic ability, in the immediate future.
He excels in transition and projects as a threat to play above the rim as a target for lobs in the pick-and-roll – averaging 1.61 points per possession on such plays last season. Collins doesn’t have a massive standing reach but is an excellent leaper off two feet, which aside from finishing also manifests itself on the offensive glass. He has a quick second jump to fight for tip-ins and 50-50 balls – collecting 16.4% of Wake Forest’s misses when he was on the floor.
Collins has flashed a catch-and-shoot mid-range jumper off the pick-and-pop and though he is yet to show range out to the three-point line in games, there’s a good base in place for him to develop that resource down the line, at least as far as him becoming a threat on spot-ups go. He has a low release but his mechanics are decent and the touch on his shot looks good often.
Collins doesn’t project as someone who will participate in the offense handling the ball from the perimeter, though. Despite the fact he’s well coordinated for someone his size, he hasn’t yet developed the ability to take his man off the bounce and is not at all an option to help facilitate offense from the elbows or the high post.
Collins has agility to hold up well enough defending above the foul line when he puts in the effort – as he flashed the ability to keep pace with smaller players on straight line drives and block some shots guarding on the ball.
He has also impressed with his ability to block shots leaping off two feet when he’s well positioned near the basket, as he averaged 2.4 block shots per 40 minutes last season.
His biggest strength is on the defensive glass, though. Collins had his moments of inattention to his boxout responsibilities but for the most part proved himself able to hold his ground under the basket and showed a good deal of toughness, collecting 25.7% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.
But despite these encouraging signs, Collins can’t be considered a good defender at this point of his development.
His effort left something to be desired, as he rarely bent his knees to get down in a stance out on the perimeter and left himself vulnerable to getting beat by some big men who would never get the chance to dribble in the NBA.
He also didn’t show a lot of urgency executing the scheme. Wake Forest called for him to hedge-and-recover on side pick-and-rolls and dribble hand-offs a ton but Collins wasn’t always committed to containing the point of attack and recovering to his initial assignment in a timely manner.
Given he’s likely to play mostly center due to the proliferation of four-out offenses in the NBA, Collins’ lack of ideal size for that position is a concern, though the biggest one is probably his lack of awareness identifying fake action designed to take his attention away from focusing on protecting the basket against cuts and dribble drives, aside from the fact he struggles with foul trouble – averaging 4.5 personal fouls per 40 minutes last season and 7.4 as a freshman.
 According to kenpom.com
 According to sports-reference
 According to hoop-math
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara