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Expectations were always going to be high for Charli Collier, the WNBA’s most recent #1 overall pick. But with Dallas’ roster loaded with promising young players, Collier largely faded from the rotation at the end of her rookie season. Now that she is playing overseas, fans can get a clearer picture of her strengths and weaknesses in the pro game.
Generally, when American players play overseas, they are expected to be one of the stars of their new team, especially at the offensive end. Collier finds herself in a relatively unique position with Beretta Famila Schio, an Italian team also competing in Euroleague Women. Normally, WNBA rookies do not sign with teams with established European stars such as Sandrine Gruda and Kim Mestdagh and which most recently acquired Diamond DeShields as well (not to mention a rising star in Kitija Laksa). As such, Collier still does not carry the largest offensive role for Famila Schio, only playing about 17 MPG and scoring 7 PPG in her first 6 Euroleague Women games. Normally, I would find this extremely discouraging, especially for a post player. For example, Megan Gustafson is an offensive powerhouse in Euroleague Women, averaging 18 PPG in 33 MPG on 63% FG shooting for VBW Arka Gdynia. Schio’s star power mitigates these concerns, however. While her numbers have not popped off the page, there is still plenty to be encouraged by what Collier has been able to do.
Collier flashed a three-point shot at Texas, shooting 48-144 (33.3%) from that range across her three seasons in college. Her shooting potential is part of the reason why no one was surprised when the Wings selected her #1 overall in the 2021 WNBA Draft, but Collier did not attempt a single three-pointer in her rookie season. While she did shoot 13-28 (46.4%) on shots beyond 10 feet from the basket, none of these was unassisted. In addition, at least in my anecdotal experience, post players generally shoot less from long range when playing overseas, both because of their general advantage closer to the basket and because many international coaches do not emphasize it as much. As a case study, compare Dearica Hamby’s WNBA shooting numbers in recent years to her numbers playing in Italy. And keep all this in mind as you watch the following play.
Is one play absolutely indicative of Collier’s ability to shoot? Absolutely not. (Note that she also does not commonly bring the ball up the floor.) However, it is quite frankly shocking to see her take this difficult long-range shot so confidently after she eschewed any shots from this distance during the WNBA season. We can see evidence for how surprising this is in Natasha Howard’s coverage of the play as she nonchalantly sags off Collier and seems to do a double-take when the ball swishes through the net.
An action that should be a more regular part of her arsenal is shooting out of the pick-and-pop. Collier has also demonstrated comfort in this area. On this particular play, she is even able to make the shot despite the pass coming below her knees.
When rolling to the rim, Collier can use timing and positioning to earn herself easy buckets even if her athleticism may not always be enough to create opportunities. For example, while she does not receive the pass here directly on the roll, she puts herself in position for the dump-off when Jasmine Keys drives off the kickout. Perhaps just as crucially, she emphatically calls for the ball so that Keys notices her.
As we saw often from Stefanie Dolson during Chicago’s championship run, a flip shot or floater can be deadly as a changeup option for a rim-rolling big, and it would be valuable for Collier to make shots like this a consistent part of her repertoire.
Collier has been very turnover prone in Euroleague so far. This includes being called for several traveling violations and getting her handle stripped in the post (which may also limit her ceiling as a driver from face-up situations). This may partly hinder her post scoring skills, at least in the medium term.
Collier can have success in the post, especially when she moves quickly and decisively, but this definitely remains a work in progress for her. Of course, reducing the tendency to travel is a perfectly reasonable improvement.
Passing remains a glaring weakness. Collier was rarely called upon as a passer in college, and she compiled an Assist to Turnover Ratio of 0.17 during her time in Austin. In her limited WNBA sample, this improved to 0.46, still a concerning figure, even for a post player. So far in Euroleague Women, this figure more closely reflects her college numbers than her WNBA numbers. as she has committed 11 turnovers in her first 104 minutes while only earning 2 assists. Even passes which did not directly lead to made shots (or, in FIBA play, free trips with at least one point scored) did not jump off the screen.
Overall, while she is still not an especially high-volume jump shooter, her shooting ability and rim rolling seem much more translatable and of higher value than her capability as a post-up scorer or driver.
Similar to her offensive profile, Collier seems to be a better pick-and-roll defender than post defender. While she does not receive much help on this particular post-up, it is somewhat concerning that Elizabeth Williams, not a superlative post-up player by WNBA standards, is able to beat her in single coverage even without getting a perfect seal.
On the other hand, in pick-and-roll defense she has even flashed confidence in more aggressive hedge coverages, at least when one half of the pick-and-roll is a less explosive athlete.
Of course, there is a reason why I emphasized that Collier could hedge when one half of the pick-and-roll is less explosive. Laia Flores shows what can happen when Collier is hedging against a combo guard rather than a wing.
Even outside of pick-and-roll situations, she has been able to poke the ball free from ball-handlers, including WNBA All-Star (and fellow Dallas Wing) Arike Ogunbowale, out on the perimeter.
Collier's strength works to her advantage as a rim protector when she gets in front of a driver, something which also helps when playing drop pick-and-roll coverage. She is even able to compel a miss on this lay-up attempt from Alina Iagupova, the 2020-21 Euroleague Women MVP and a ferocious downhill attacker.
While WNBA All-Star Kayla McBride makes the shot here, I wanted to emphasize the degree of difficulty on this shot when Collier is in position to contest a more conventional lay-up attempt (although she does not get her hands up in time to bother the patented floater that McBride does muster).
Of course, this is still an inconsistent part of Collier’s game. In addition to sometimes not rotating over quickly enough, there were several instances where she provided a solid contest on the first shot but was taken out of the play after the initial contest and conceded a much easier putback opportunity.
It is fair to wonder whether Collier is currency caught between positions, specifically the power forward and center spots. However, this is generally less of a concern when a player can legitimately combine some skills expected of both positions rather than merely carry their presumed weaknesses. In particular, Collier’s shooting confidence, if it persists, can get her onto the floor long enough to gain the experience to iron out some of her weaknesses and make playing her at the 5 an enticing offensive proposition. Her biggest weakness is her passing at this stage, while her rim protection has its weak points and its strong points. With a standard development curve, Collier should be able to earn a WNBA starting spot by the end of her rookie contract.
Thank you for the kind words! I'm not sure why you're having trouble watching the clips. Have you tried using a private/incognito window?
Great writing and coverage. Would have loved to see Collier's pro game, but looks like the game footage was taken down. Still enjoy keeping up with the W players overseas. Please keep this amazing content coming. :)