Atlanta Hawks Finally Trade an Unhappy John Collins

Posted on: June 27, 2023, 12:01h. 

Last updated on: June 27, 2023, 12:56h.

The Utah Jazz acquired forward John Collins from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for forward Rudy Gay and a second-round draft pick.

John Collins
Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, seen here at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, has been the subject of trade rumors for the past three seasons. (Image: Getty)

The move was financially motivated and a salary dump. The Hawks needed to get under the luxury cap and were able to trade a disgruntled Collins, who will earn $25.3 million this upcoming season.

Collins, 25, signed a five-year contract extension with the Hawks worth $125 million that began in the 2021-22 season. He has nearly $52 million remaining on his contract, but has a player option for the 2025-26 season worth $26.5 million.

Collins averaged 13.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game last season. He shot a career-low 50.8% from the floor and 29.2% from 3-point range. His scoring average reached a career low since his rookie season in 2017-18, and after he became a starter in his second season.

Collins struggled with injuries since the 2019-20 season, when he appeared in only 41 games. He was finally healthy this past season and appeared in 71 games, which marked his second-most appearances since he played in 74 games as a rookie.

The Rise and Fall of Collins and Young

During the 2019-20 season, Collins was in his third season as a pro and earned accolades as a rising star. He averaged a career-best 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

Collins and budding superstar Trae Young developed great chemistry during Young’s first two seasons in the NBA. The two ran a deadly pick-and-roll and the league took notice of the dynamic duo from Atlanta.

Their relationship soured just as the Hawks started to achieve success. Collins didn’t like a diminished role in the offense and asked the Hawks to trade him. He’s been the subject of trade rumors over the past three seasons, but nothing came to fruition. The Hawks were always asking for too much in return, which is why a deal never happened. Collins didn’t help the situation because injuries impacted his stats.

Young started to develop a big head during his ascent to superstar status, and dysfunction in the front office created an unstable environment. Young has since developed a reputation as a “coach killer” when two well-liked and respected coaches were dismissed. Lloyd Pierce and Nate McMillan were veteran coaches who crossed paths with Young, and the front office inevitably sided with Young during their disputes.

Pierce was fired in the middle of the 2020-21 season and replaced by McMillan. McMillan guided the Hawks to a surprise run in the playoffs and a trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

The Hawks fired McMillan in the middle of the 2022-23 season. The Hawks didn’t let an interim head coach finish the season and wait until the off-season to hire a new coach. Instead, they brought in Quin Snyder, who previously coached the Jazz.

Hawks Outlook Next Season

Snyder guided the Jazz to six consecutive postseason appearances before he retired at the end of the 2021-22 season. During that stretch, the Jazz won three division titles and earned the #1 playoff seed in the 2020-21 season.

Snyder coached the Hawks for their last 28 games in the 2022-23 season. He went 13-15, but guided the Hawks to the #7 seed in the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament. The Hawks pushed the Boston Celtics to six games in the first round, but the Celtics prevailed 4-2 in the series.

The Hawks are in the middle of the pack at +6000 odds to win the 2023-24 NBA championship. They advanced to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, but qualified the last two seasons through the play-in tournament. They were knocked out in the first round in the last two postseasons.

The Hawks are +2000 odds to win the Eastern Conference, which they haven’t done since the franchise relocated to Atlanta in 1968.

After ditching Collins, the Hawks aren’t hard-pressed to trade Clint Capela or small forward De’Andre Hunter. However, numerous teams are eyeing Capela, including the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks.

Without Collins on the roster, forward Jalen Johnson will see an uptick in playing time.

The Hawks added guard Kobe Bufkin from Michigan as the #15 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. In the second round, the Hawks selected center Mouhamed Gueye from Washington State, and guard Seth Lundy from Penn State.

Trae Young Trade Rumors

The Hawks could trade Young if the price is right. Considering how they botched the Collins situation over the past few seasons, the Hawks will likely attach a high price tag on Young. Guard Dejounte Murray has also been mentioned in trade rumors. The Hawks acquired Murray last off-season in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to bolster their perimeter defense.

League sources say the Hawks’ front office has the green light from ownership to do whatever it wants to with the roster,” said NBA analyst Kevin O’Connor. “Which includes considering trade opportunities involving Young.”

The Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Miami Heat were mentioned in possible trade rumors for Young.

The Lakers lack the draft capital and veterans on their roster to make a trade worthwhile for the Hawks. That’s also under the assumption that Lakers forward/center Anthony Davis is untouchable. A swap involving Young and Davis could work, but the Lakers aren’t interested in moving Davis.

The 76ers are awaiting James Harden’s decision to remain in Philadelphia or return to the Houston Rockets. If Harden leaves, the 76ers could consider trading Joel Embiid to the New York Knicks or they could pursue Young in a trade with the Hawks.

The Heat need a high-volume scoring guard like Young. They missed a chance to add Bradley Beal, as the Washington Wizards traded Beal to the Phoenix Suns instead. The Heat are now pursuing Damian Lillard from the Portland Trailblazers. But that seems like another dead end for Miami. If Lillard is out, then Young is next on Pat Riley’s wish list.

Utah Jazz on the Upswing

The Jazz have an exciting young head coach in Will Hardy. During Hardy’s rookie season, the Jazz went 37-45 and missed the playoffs, which wasn’t so bad considering they were expected to barely win 20 games after the Jazz gutted the team and traded away its top stars in Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.

Hardy still managed to squeeze out 35 wins with a team of castoffs. A healthy Lauri Markkanen earned All-Star honors by averaging 25.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Rookie center William Kessler showed flashes of promise off the bench by averaging 9.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

The Jazz drafted Central Florida forward Taylor Hendricks with the ninth overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, and the rookie will join a solid front line that now includes Collins.

The Jazz are +25000 odds to win the 2023 NBA championship, according to DraftKings. They are the seventh-lowest team on the futures board, but arguably the strongest squad out of all the projected bottom-feeders next season. By adding a  veteran like Collins, the Jazz could compete for a spot in the play-in tournament next season.

The Jazz are +10000 odds to win the Western Conference. They’re near the bottom of the board with the Houston Rockets (+15000) and San Antonio Spurs (+1000).