Atlanta Hawks eyeing rival’s $39M breakout star

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

Things just got a bit more interesting for the Atlanta Hawks. Coming off of their disappointing 121-114 loss at home to the young Oklahoma City Thunder, the Hawks are looking to put that and a reported disagreement between star point guard Trae Young and head coach Nate McMillan in their rearview mirror.

But one bit of lingering business remains unsettled as well and that is John Collins’ perpetual availability in a trade.

A new report from Shams Charania of The Athletic (subscription required) reveals interest in John Collins on the part of the Washington Wizards, who he says have had legitimate discussions about attempting to trade for the high-flying big man.

Charania also notes that the Hawks have eyes for a Wizards player.

The Atlanta Hawks have interest in Wizards’ Kyle Kuzma amid breakout season

Perhaps the most interesting part of Charania’s report is that the Hawks and Wizards discussed a deal involving Collins last offseason. Collins is in the second year of a five-year, $125 million contract but has been on the trade block dating back to before he re-signed with the Hawks. A previous report stated there was more motivation than ever to finally find a resolution.

Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma, whom Charania says the Hawks have an interest in but doesn’t mention in connection to Collins, technically has one more year remaining on his deal after this season. But it is a player option worth $13 million which he is expected to surpass if he opts out.

The 27-year-old Kuzma is having a breakout campaign for the Wizards, averaging 20.6 points on 55.1% true shooting – both career highs – with 7.7 rebounds and a career-best 3.6 assists.

Collins is mired in a career-worst year amid renewed reports he wants out.

He is averaging 12.3 PPG on a career-worst 56.8% true shooting with 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

His biggest dropoff has come from beyond the arc where Collins, a career-37.6% shooting from deep, has hit just 21.9% of those looks. Kuzma is a 33.6% career three-point shooter and is hitting just 30.5% of his deep looks this season, dampening the appeal of a would-be swap.

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There are several other complications to getting anything done with Collins and Kuzma, however, not the least of which is the salary disparity. While that can be worked around by adding pieces – former Hawks guard Delon Wright would work. But once you begin doing that, the compensation going back has to change.

Kuzma’s pending free agency and potential to land a deal well within the range of Collins’ could also be a hindrance to a luxury tax-conscious organization.

There is also the matter of Kuzma going from being the top option for the Wizards with Bradley Beal out and Wizards general manager Tommy Shepard deeming the 6-foot-9 versatile forward a “cornerstone” piece moving forward.

All of that makes it sound as though one player is more “available” than the other.

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In the end, this potential deal sounds better on the surface than it does when you dig into the circumstances around each player involved.