The Atlanta Hawks are among this year's most disappointing teams. Runner-ups in last year's Eastern Conference Finals, Atlanta has not been able to find their footing at all this season and are currently in 12th in the East. GM Travis Schlenk has been making the media rounds over the last few weeks wondering if he made a mistake bringing this team back completely whole after their deep postseason run last year. It's been a bit of a mess.
All signs point to the Hawks being pretty active at the deadline this year. Trae Young is a bonafide superstar and Atlanta doesn't want to waste the All-NBA-caliber season he's having. They already moved Cam Reddish after he requested a trade elsewhere, and now the scuttlebutt suggests John Collins will be the next one gone.
Collins has been a regular in deadline rumors for a few years running now. This year might be the year he finally gets moved. He's an intriguing talent, a scoring power forward with a good three-point shot who can jump through the roof averaging 16 PPG and hitting 40 percent of his tries from deep this season. His effort on defense comes and goes, though, and there isn't a lot of room for him to grow past being average at best on that end. Collins also has a bit of a reputation for perpetual unhappiness when it comes to how he's used in the offense, which is probably why he's on the block again this year after signing an extension last offseason.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Hawks are only looking for a first-round pick and a "solid" starter in exchange for Collins, which means most teams can be in the running if they so desire. Collins is in the first year of a five-year, $125 million deal so whoever acquires him can keep him around in the long run if they so desire. His $23 million salary won't be terribly difficult to match.
Here are a few possible landing spots for Collins if the Hawks do make a trade.
The Hawks have been rumored to be very interested in Jerami Grant. They will have stiff competition for his services if Detroit puts him on the block but could get themselves into the mix by offering Collins. It makes the financial side simple-- Grant is making $20 million this year, so the salary matches up. Collins fits into the Pistons' timeline as a 24-year-old who is still growing his game and would serve as an ideal safety net for Cade Cunningham as he continues to grow.
Detroit has their guy in Cunningham but should be looking for any opportunity to stock the roster with guys who can complement him on the same development timeline. Collins is just that. And the Hawks get another long, switchy forward who can support Young defensively and space the floor offensively. Both sides win unless the Hawks get out-bid.
One of the two teams linked to Collins in the BR report from today, the Mavs appear to be on a constant search for the highest-end talent possible to give Luka Doncic. This is a worthy goal when a franchise finds a player as good as Luka and one that can pay off big-time. As with the Pistons above, Collins is on the Mavs' timeline as a young player who can contribute to winning efforts now and still has room to grow before reaching his full potential.
The real question is what Dallas would give Atlanta to make it worth their while. The Mavs cannot trade their 2022 pick due to the Kristaps Porzingis trade and don't have anybody else's to dangle. Dallas isn't going to trade Porzingis now that things are finally working with him and the only other player with the requisite salary to match Collins is Tim Hardaway Jr., who is a great scoring wing but doesn't offer a lot defensively and would be a questionable long-term fit next to Young in Atlanta. If the Hawks, for whatever reason, really just want Collins gone, then they could send him out in exchange for Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson. Hardaway goes back to Atlanta to space the floor and Brunson appears to be growing into a high-level backup PG role, which is something Atlanta has sorely needed for a few years. Not the best trade, but far from the worst on the table.
San Antonio Spurs
The other team named in the aforementioned report, the Spurs do not have a singular superstar that will drag them back to contention but rather a collection of very solid players and a roster that needs a little boost to get back to the playoffs. Collins could serve as that boost. He'd help the offense on the nights that it drags and Gregg Popovich would certainly be able to coach him up defensively. It's probably the best possible landing spot for Collins the player, as no one organization has been able to get the most out of their players quite like the Spurs have over the years.
The Hawks reportedly called San Antonio about Derrick White, the feisty guard whose elite defensive skills make up for a lack of offensive firepower. As mentioned above, Atlanta really needs a reliable guard to run the second unit so things don't crater when Young sits. White could even play next to Young, even if it meant an undersized backcourt, due to his ability to pick up just about any defensive assignment. It is exceedingly unlikely the Spurs would throw in a first-rounder along with White to make this deal happen, but if the Hawks are willing to settle for White and filler, there's a deal here.
There have been multiple reports over the last few weeks that the Hawks and Sixers were discussing a trade for Collins involving both Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons. Atlanta would have needed to add a lot more into that trade to make the money work, but that was the general framework, and rumor has it Atlanta backed out because they didn't want Harris. But a trade for Simmons would still work out for both sides if Philly were willing to settle.
The Hawks get their alternate PG who can help keep the offense on track without Young while also completely revamping their defense. Philly gets one of the few power forwards whose game meshes perfectly with Joel Embiid's. The Sixers push their chips all-in for this season, which they should do because Embiid has been playing at an MVP level so far, while still having a very tradable contract to use for any potential upgrades in the near future. It seems like Daryl Morey has his eyes set on much greater heights, but if he comes back down to earth this is the trade that benefits everybody.