The Atlanta Hawks came crashing back to Earth last season after their stunning run to the Eastern Conference Finals last summer. They finished this past season at 43-39 and squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed before losing to the Miami Heat in a gentleman's sweep. After such a disappointment, there's pressure for changes to be made.
As the calendar draws near the NBA Draft on Thursday, the rumor mill suggests that change will be moving John Collins. The 24-year-old forward has a unique skillset as a high-flying lob threat who can also shoot the rock at a great clip for somebody his size, hitting 36 percent of his attempts from deep last season. Collins improved greatly as a defender this year after spending the early seasons of his career as a 6-foot-9 turnstile.
Collins is an attractive trade candidate for just about anybody because of those attributes and his very reasonable five-year, $125 million contract that he just finished up the first season of. The Hawks want to trade him because he is the only player they have who can significantly upgrade the roster and he's kind of a weird fit with Trae Young.
Where could Collins go? Here are a few options.
The Kings are everybody's favorite destination for Collins because word around town says Sacramento is extremely dedicated to ending their playoff drought next year. They have the No. 4 overall pick and it's hard to find a player in the draft who is ready to win now. Collins is a great fit on the roster because he can play next to Domantas Sabonis without sacrificing any spacing and can share the load offensively when Sabonis or De'Aaron Fox need a breather.
The money is the big issue. It's unlikely the Kings want to swap Harrison Barnes for Collins, as much as Atlanta would like that. Richaun Holmes is another option but he missed the last month of the year due to "personal reasons" and has some off-court problems going on that make him a tough sell. Plus his $10 million salary is less than half of what the Kings need to match Collins' salary. If Barnes is on the table, this is a great deal for both sides. If not, there will need to be a third team in the picture.
The Hornets are in dire need of big-man depth and have been for some time. They also have two first-round picks in the draft this year. There is a logical desire to capitalize on LaMelo Ball's talent while he remains on his cheap rookie contract. Collins would be an excellent fit as a better version of Miles Bridges, who is a restricted free agent this offseason. Charlotte could trade for Collins and let Bridges walk, giving Ball an equally dangerous roll partner while upgrading defensively and avoiding any possibility of getting trapped into a bad Bridges contract by a team trying to steal him away by offering a huge deal.
What does Atlanta get out of this? The deal that works best for both sides features Terry Rozier for Collins. Rozier is good for his $17 million salary but isn't making or breaking the Hornets' playoff hopes. He'd be a crucial part of the Hawks' rotation, though; their biggest issue last year was having nobody to run the offense when Young needed a break. Trading Collins for Rozier and pieces makes sense, and both team's draft picks are on the table to help sweeten the deal.
The Pacers are in a weird state right now where they could either blow the roster up or stay the course and toe the line between rebuilding and competitiveness. Historically, they've chosen the latter, but trading Sabonis to the Kings in exchange for Tyrese Haliburton at the deadline this year suggests the winds may be blowing a different way now. Collins is an ideal trade target regardless because he fits the timeline of the team and would fit very well next to Haliburton and Myles Turner.
On the Hawks' end, the Pacers are listening to offers for Malcolm Brogdon and he'd be perfect for the aforementioned reasons concerning the crater the team's offense fell into when Young was on the bench. Brogdon's injury issues are legitimate, but if Atlanta is fine with it, he can be traded for Collins straight-up as far as the money goes. This deal feels good for both sides but carries far more risk for the Hawks. Still, it's the kind of change they seem like they want to make.