Atlanta Hawks lock in best young core in the Eastern Conference

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks had a pretty simple plan for this offseason. They knocked it out of the park in the 2021 NBA Draft. But at the top had to be locking up Trae Young and John Collins. Young’s deal — a rookie-scale max extension worth up to $207 million — was reportedly done well before it could officially be agreed to.

But Collins’ deal was proving to be harder to come by, as we got reports on Tuesday that he and the Hawks were not close on a deal.

The Atlanta Hawks core has the brightest future of any team in the Eastern Conference

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On Wednesday, many fans awoke to the news that Collins had indeed signed his four-year, $125-million standing offer (with a fifth-year option) from Atlanta.

Collins was said to have numerous suitors waiting to vie for his services ahead of free agency, with no fewer than four teams reported to have an interest.

Luckily for the Hawks, that never materialized.

The money dried up rather fast despite it being what was viewed as a weaker free-agent crop.

Even still, the number of players who re-upped with their original teams would seem to have led to an abundance of opportunities and few to take them.

We saw typical second- and third-wave free agency get snatched up instead as teams were perhaps feeling some of last season can be written off due to injury.

Atlanta had some of the most missed games in the NBA last season themselves.

With the only viable option, barring a sign-and-trade, being the Oklahoma City Thunder, it only stood to reason that Collins would re-up.

After all, even if OKC did want to put an offer sheet that was attractive financially, not only could the Hawks have matched (as they have indicated all along they would) but he certainly wouldn’t be competing for a Conference Finals berth.

So, in the end, Collins gets his money, the Hawks get their man, and fans get to enjoy the best young core in the East.

Young and Collins are now locked up through the 2024-25 season.

The rest of the core isn’t so settled. Kevin Huerter is headed for restricted free agency unless an extension gets worked out this offseason. De’Andre Hunter is right behind him and Cam Reddish has already been the subject of trade rumors this offseason.

Those guys are all young and can be retained via Bird Rights, though. The trickier part could be navigating with a couple of hefty veteran contracts on the books for the next couple of years.

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Still, the Hawks have had one of the best offseasons in the entire NBA from soup to nuts. That just got re-inforced by Collins’ return to a group that is just scratching the surface.