As the NBA’s trade deadline draws closer, longstanding rumors tend to get more fuel – not necessarily the trades themselves, just the conversations around them. The Atlanta Hawks (22-22) have been a constant in trade talks even before the season began thanks to John Collins being in perpetual limbo.
The Hawks have been trying to move off the sixth-year big man for the last few seasons hindered first by his five-year, $125 million contract and now by his sub-standard play for most of this season.
That has not kept him nor the Hawks out of the rumor mill, however.
Collins’ name has been bandied about as an option for teams in both conferences and, now, is also being considered a strong fit North of the border.
Insider proposes Atlanta Hawks trade John Collins to Toronto Raptors
This latest proposal comes from ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks who went through and did a trade deadline breakdown (subscription required) for all 32 teams sifting through their resources and the likelihood that they would attempt to consummate a deal at the February 9 trade deadline, Atlanta included.
Marks also included a section in each entry to “trades we’d like to see” and left this one for the Hawks.
Marks makes use of the Hawks’ open roster spot in suggesting this 3-for-2 packaged deal in which the biggest appeal for the Hawks would be the draft selection in their quest to remain under the luxury tax threshold unless they are contending for a title.
The slippery slope that leads down is another discussion entirely.
Big man Chris Boucher, 30, is averaging 9.4 points on 57% true shooting with 5.5 rebounds. He is in the first year of a three-year, $35.25 million deal.
Veteran journeyman Thaddeus Young, 34, is averaging 5.9 points on 57.3% true shooting. He too is in the first year of his current contract which is set to pay him $16 million. But only $1 million of the $8 million he is due next season has been guaranteed. Any team that trades for him can essentially treat it as acquiring an expiring contract.
Center Khem Birch, 30, is basically just a throw-in to match the salaries.
He is averaging just 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds this season in a little over eight minutes per game when he can even get in the game.
It can easily be argued that not paying the luxury tax essentially excluded the Hawks from competing with the top-tier teams most of which also reside at or near the top in spending.
This is the path the Hawks have chosen to this point, though, leading to their constant shopping of Collins and selling off Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings – who were also in on Collins at one point according to reports– in the wake of the trade to land star guard Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs.
They are currently riding high on a three-game winning streak, their second of the season, and are still dealing with plenty of turmoil off the court. Their standing in the Eastern Conference has been the most stable thing with the Hawks floating around the Play-In Tournament field.
Atlanta currently sits ninth in the East but they are just 2.5 games back of the six-seed and a guaranteed playoff spot.
Getting there should be the immediate goal.
After that, the Hawks can look to explore their options with Collins and whoever else in the offseason. Right now, though, they still have a chance to make plenty of noise in the conference which could go a long way toward changing perceptions from the outside and paths of those in the building.
The Hawks face off against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks next in a stretch that will see them go on the road for nine of their next 14 outings before reaching Valentine’s day. It should work to their benefit in the latter portions of the season with more home dates.