Winning makes everything better but losing usually only serves to amplify underlying issues. In the Atlanta Hawks’ 128-122 loss to the Houston Rockets, the former dazzled with long stretches of what they can be. But they bookended that by making their lack of consistent perimeter shooting and defenders evident.
A big reason for the Hawks’ struggles was the absence of their man in the middle, Clint Capela as they were outrebounded 59-28.
There was also the skirmish that broke out when the Rockets took exception to the Hawks’ showing them up throughout the game. After things settled down, the Hawks struggled against one of the more isolation-heavy teams in the NBA.
Some are arguing for a trade to remedy that.
Philly’s Tobias Harris could add another isolation threat to the Atlanta Hawks
Naturally, any hypothetical trade scenario involving the Hawks starts with John Collins, the sixth-year forward in the second year of a five-year, $125 million deal who has been mired in rumors for two years. That is where Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz begins in his argument for sending Collins to the Philadelphia 76ers.
“With Collins and Harris both popping up in trade talks recently,” offers Swartz, “why not explore a swap built around the pair of power forwards? Harris makes a hefty $76.9 million over the next two years, but his deal will run out the same summer the Hawks will need to give Dejounte Murray a max deal, whereas Collins will still be under contract.”
Collins and Harris are both experiencing down statistical seasons.
The former is averaging 12.1 points on 56.5% true shooting and a 16% usage rate – all are career lows for the longest-tenured Hawks player. He has, however, embraced a more active role on defense but that didn’t necessarily show up enough against Houston.
Sixers forward Tobias Harris is averaging an identical 16 PPG but is doing it on 55.4% true shooting and a 20.7% usage rate.
That just covers the main pieces, though,
“[Matisse] Thybulle adds some elite perimeter defense around Trae Young,” Swartz continues, “and [Shake] Milton provides Atlanta with some scoring pop off the bench to help make up for the loss of [Bogdan] Bogdanović.”
Thybulle is a three-time All-Defensive selection. He is also averaging 1.4 points on 35.6% true shooting in just over 11 minutes per game and is a liability in the playoffs.
Milton has good size at 6-foot-5 and his 40% mark from three seems like it would make up for Thybulle’s lack of offense. But he only averages 2.0 triples a night and has matched tying his career-best 3.1 assists by averaging a career-worst 2.0 turnovers.
So why would this deal appeal to the Hawks?
Ducking the luxury tax was a focus for ownership this past summer and, if the team continues to put forth uneven performances, there is a chance they could look to do something similar next summer. They are also already projected to be up against the tax line next season with De’Andre Hunter’s extension kicking in leading to Bogdanovic emerging in rumors.
Ultimately, though, it is not worth weakening yourself while strengthening a rival all for the sake of avoiding paying the luxury tax which is generally associated with truly competitive teams.
Collins is the best player named and is producing similarly on lower usage cheaper than Harris.
The Hawks being so mindful of remaining under the tax is concerning from a competitive standpoint. But it is also a referendum on how ownership views this current group after principal Tony Ressler has said he would spend for a title contender – they’ll have to force the issue.