Sometimes it can be the things we don’t do that work out the best. The Atlanta Hawks (23-22) are seemingly righting the ship as winners of four straight games and six of their last eight; a fitting answer to their previous four-game losing streak. They’ve also exorcised some of their early-season demons fighting off late surges and holding onto or regaining leads.
Their drama has not been limited to on-the-court with reports of turmoil in the front office, uncertainty with head coach Nate McMillan, and chemistry issues in the locker room.
As things have settled down, though, their embattled big man, John Collins, has settled in.
Trade rumors have not and Collins remains among the most discussed players believed to be available ahead of the deadline. Despite all of the chatter surrounding him, there appears to be a major roadblock.
John Collins’ contract keeping him tied to the Atlanta Hawks
“John Collins has been at the center of their trade talks,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said. “Starting next year, still owed another $25 million a year – essentially $75 million over the next three years. I think that’s been a hindrance in the trade market. There are some teams, such as Utah, that would like a draft pick with Collins to offset that money.”
While Wojnarowski notes that this is his thinking and does not present it as something he has been told and is reporting on.
There are plenty of signs that underscore the point nonetheless.
One of the earliest teams to have a rumored interest this season was the Phoenix Suns who were not keen on taking on that remaining money amid Collins’ struggles this season. There have also been reports that the Hawks have lowered their asking price “considerably”.
Even at a potentially lowered price, Hawks general manager Landry Fields does not view Collins as a “salary dump”, per Wojnarowski.
Fields has the additional task of needing to remain under the luxury tax threshold.
“They could just as well bring John Collins back, get through the offseason. He’s, again, three-plus years left on his deal,” Wojnarowski said noting his belief that the Hawks will be active at the deadline. “I do think the conversations with collins around the league will get more serious as we get more serious as we get closer to that February 9 trade deadline.”
Collins is averaging 13.3 points (second-lowest of his career) on 57.8% true shooting (worst of his career). He is shooting just 24.4% from beyond the arc this season after shooting no worse than 34% in any of his previous five seasons.
Again, though, Collins is showing encouraging signs as the Hawks are seemingly righting the ship when they need it most.
The high-flying forward is averaging 16.3 points on 60% true shooting over the last 12 games.
He also boasts the second-best net efficiency differential on the team behind only Trae Young and the second-best defensive efficiency differential behind Dejounte Murray, per Cleaning The Glass. Atlanta’s defense ranks in the 81st percentile with Collins on the floor and plummets to the 25th percentile when he sits.
If his recent surge – keyed by getting the ball more according to Murray – is any indication, his offense is on the verge of returning too. He did knock down 3-of-5 triples in the big 130-122 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
That could be the second-best thing to happen for Collins and the Hawks with the first being other teams’ squeamishness over his hefty contract.
Ironically, the Hawks problem is that Collins’ contract is doing exactly as it was intended to do and keeping him tied to the organization for the foreseeable future.