Atlanta Hawks targeted $67M breakout star in trade: REPORT

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports /

We are firmly entrenched in smoke-and-mirrors season. The NBA’s trade deadline is three months away but speculation begins early – if it ever truly ends. That has been especially true for the likes of Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins who has been mired in rumors for the last two years.

Collins has previously voiced displeasure with his role on the team but has also always been a team-first player.

His reward has been a career-low usage rate and trade rumors persisting with Collins still considered among the league’s most-likely trade candidates. Interested teams have included the Phoneix Suns, who don’t like his contract, and the Utah Jazz.

It is with the Jazz that the story has taken an interesting turn.

John Collins offered in trade as Atlanta Hawks target Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen

“The Jazz’s interest in Hawks forward John Collins is real,” writes NBA insider Jake Fischer for Yahoo! Sports, “and would seem to indicate Utah is considering how to add to this winning unit rather than subtract from it. Right now, the likelihood of Collins landing in Salt Lake City, though, seems low.”

That much seems pretty standard and nothing that we don’t already know from previous reports.

But Fisher goes on to relay that, not only are the Jazz interested in Collins, the Hawks apparently had a target in mind as well: Utah’s breakout star big man, Lauri Markkanen whom they acquired in the Donovan Mitchell trade.

“Atlanta approached the Jazz about swapping Collins for Markkanen,” says Fischer before adding the move “did not generate any traction”.

This is quite the plot twist to be sure but could still be read in a couple of very different ways.

First, it is believed the Hawks want a more defensive-minded player in that spot. Markkanen – who is averaging 22.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists – is not that. But he is a legitimate 7-footer with the ability to put the ball on the floor.

It is clear what Markkanen would bring to the Hawks but it is unclear how receptive he would be to going back to a supporting role behind a ball-dominant backcourt in Dejounte Murray and Trae Young. Young ranks fifth in the NBA in usage rate – on the second-highest mark of his career at 34.7 – while Murray ranks 54th also at the second-highest rate of his career.

This brings us to the other and arguably the more realistic way to view this which is in a similar fashion to the Hawks’ offer for Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant this summer.

While we know they made an overture, it’s been reported they knew their offer was short.

In other words, the Hawks made an offer they knew wouldn’t be accepted because they did not really want to do the deal. Or at least they did not want to meet the asking price to get the deal done which leaves them in the same position either way.

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If the Jazz were asking for Collins, they are clearly looking to win in the short term. Moving Markkanen who has been their best player would make no sense.

Of course, the Hawks would have to know that going in. So, even if this rumor is true and they did make this “offer”, there is no way they thought the Jazz would bite. Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is a notoriously shrewd dealmaker and Hawks president Travis Schlenk has also been a shrew operator, enough for both to get the benefit of the doubt when breaking down rumors like this one.

That doesn’t mean there is no truth to the rumors – teams often negotiate through the media in this way.

It is consistent with Shams Charania’s report that there was as much motivation as ever on the part of the Hawks and Collins reps to finally find a resolution to this ordeal which preceded his signing a five-year, $125 million contract last summer.

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Stay tuned, Hawks fans.