Last week, I published an article detailing 10 bold (and not-so-bold) predictions for the Atlanta Hawks’ 2019-20 season. In a natural follow-up to such a piece, which assumed good health and a complete roster, the NBA suspended John Collins 25 games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. He will appeal the suspension, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
It’s a brutal loss for a Hawks team engulfed in considerable hype. Trae Young and Co. started the season 2-0 before a handful of tough losses, two of which came in Young’s absence. People believed in the young Hawks, and some pundits — myself included — began to re-think Atlanta’s playoff chances.
In the end, I settled on the Hawks as a non-playoff contender. Collins’ suspension only furthers my case, but the excitement around the team and the positive trajectory are undeniable. The season started as well as one could have expected before Trae’s minor injury hiccup.
The Hawks’ rotation has serious, unavoidable cracks. The backup point guard spot is still a question mark — Evan Turner, Cam Reddish, and DeAndre’ Bembry are not reliable primary initiators in 2019. The youth is unavoidable, as is the wealth of potentially unplayable vets dragging down the roster’s back end.
Without Collins, the Hawks will operate without their No. 2 scorer and Young’s most trusted offensive partner. In five games, the 6-foot-8 springboard has averages of 17.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game on .525/.474/.706 shooting splits. Pretty, pretty good.
Showing signs of a third-year leap, Collins will now miss over a quarter of the season. The Hawks have the luxury of a surprisingly solid Jabari Parker in his absence, but there’s no getting around the negative impact Collins’ absence will have. The Hawks already lacked diverse scoring options, and Collins just expanded the void.