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He could be called 'Human Highlight Film,' but Hawks' John Collins rounding out his game

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The NBA.com home page featured a John Collins video montage titled "John Collins’ most athletic finishes at the rim" and included several clips of his impressive dunks.

The Atlanta Hawks forward is an entertaining high-flyer – think former Hawks forward Dominique Wilkins, who was known as "The Human Highlight Film" during his playing career. Collins is one of the NBA’s best in-game dunkers, whether in the open court and catching lobs from Trae Young.

But there’s more to Collins’ game than dunks.

To paraphrase a golf saying, dunk for show, defend and hit 3s for dough.

"I love to dunk and I have guys who can throw lobs," Collins told USA TODAY Sports. "A lot of times what happens with my game, people will turn on ESPN or NBA TV, that’s all they see is me catching lobs and dunking. They might not see the whole game, but I’ve got to take that with a level of understanding and continue to work on my game."

Collins, a modern-day stretch four, averages 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and is shooting 58.3% from the field and 45.5% on 3-pointers in the Hawks' slow 4-8 start.

Now in his fifth season — all with the Hawks — Collins is an integral part of Atlanta’s present and future coming off an Eastern Conference finals appearance last season.

He is the most comfortable he’s felt since being drafted No. 19 in the 2017 draft.

"In terms of poise and experience, I’m starting to understand my way through the league," Collins said. "A lot of things outside of the game are slowing down and giving me a big opportunity to focus in on the court because I understand what my day is going to be prior to the court. The game is slowing down for me and I’m able to see my spots and pick them more accurately."

In the offseason, Collins signed a five-year, $125 million contract, a deal that put him at ease.

Hawks forward John Collins (left) shoots over Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis. Collins is shooting 58.3% from the field this season.
Hawks forward John Collins (left) shoots over Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis. Collins is shooting 58.3% from the field this season.

"You don’t always get exactly what you want, but it’s life-changing money," Collins said. "I get to stay in Atlanta, I get to be with the people and family I’ve built here and that just gives me an extra layer of calm as well to know all the hard work and effort I’ve put into the city of Atlanta isn’t going anywhere."

Collins and Young form the core of a young Hawks roster that altered its time and expectations with a strong 2020-21 season that ended in an Eastern Conference finals loss to Milwaukee.

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When Hawks coach Nate McMillan is asked about Collins, he makes it a point to talk about Collins and Young together. "If I speak on one, I have to speak on both," McMillan said. "The next step for them is to make their teammates better. All of us are going to have to sacrifice out there because we do have depth."

That sacrifice has shown up in some of Collins’ statistics. His scoring is down, but overall shooting percentage, rebounds and assists are up as the Hawks incorporate healthy players into the lineup and ask Collins to play small-ball center occasionally.

"John is a guy who allows the game to come to him," McMillan said. "He plays within the flow of the offense. (Against the Wizards), he ended up with 28 points and we probably called two, three plays for him."

As Collins grows, he has increased his leadership.

"I’ve taken a big step vocally this year," he said. "I want to be a defensive leader and I want to be a guy people can look to with confidence in me understanding the game and having confidence in my IQ. I want to continue to build on that and be looked at as a pillar, a guy people can trust and know I can be counted on."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: John Collins, Hawks' new 'Human Highlight Film', rounding out his game