The summer of speculation has officially begun for the Atlanta Hawks.
And, after two-plus years of trade rumors around John Collins, more of the same is already churning in the rumor mill.
“The [Brooklyn] Nets want some guys who can score, and John [Collins] can score,” an Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney. “The Nets like Collins, they had interest there even before they blew up the team, they’re still curious.”
Atlanta’s big gamble on trading for Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs helped resolve some of their issues from the last couple of seasons. For one thing, he filled the need for another on-ball creator and playmaker for himself and others. What he could not fix – at least not on his own – was their leaky defense. The Hawks ranked 25th in defended field goal percentage during the regular season, per NBA.com, allowing opponents to shoot 1.4% over their averages.
This is where Brooklyn can help in theory with their plethora of two-way wings. But it’s not breakout star Mikal Bridges or even the solid Cameron Johnson who the exec thinks could come into play.
“The only way they (the Nets) can really do something big, can really get someone who can score in there, is if they can get a taker for Ben Simmons…There aren’t a lot of teams where that would make sense, but Atlanta is one of them because you need to build a defensive group around Trae Young.”
Collins, 25, is coming off his worst season since his rookie year and was one of the several players (and the most prominent) not to do an exit interview following elimination from the playoffs.
He averaged 13.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists this season while shooting 50.8% from the floor overall and 80.3% from the free-throw line but could only knock down 29.2% of his looks from beyond the arc.
Brooklyn is trying to get back into the title-hunting business after granting the trade wishes of their previous star duo of Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns) and Kyrie Irving (Dallas Mavericks).
Collins’ value is still worlds higher than Simmons’, 26, after the latter made just 42 appearances this past season. Even when he was on the court this year, though, he was far from the player he was before facing the Hawks in the second round of the 2021 playoffs and then sitting out all of last season with a back injury and mental health issues. The Hawks would be on the hook for roughly $270,000 more but Simmons has one less year on his contract.
It could be the opportunity for the Hawks to flip another asset in the process.
Atlanta Hawks could look to flip Bogdan Bogdanovic’s contract
“You’d be looking at taking back [Bogdan] Bogdanovic’s deal if you’re Brooklyn and giving up a Royce O’Neale or Dorian Finney-Smith,” the exec said. “But both teams are kind of in a holding pattern and even though it’s scary to do something big, that’s the kind of thing it will take.”
The Hawks just signed Bogdanovic, 30, to a four-year, $68 million contract in March but there has been registered interest in the sharpshooting swingman this season. His new deal does mean that he cannot be dealt until closer to training camp in September which would seem to be a major roadblock to getting anything done.
However, Simmons is expected to make a full recovery by then which could help this make sense.
Finney-Smith (three years, $41 million remaining) and O’Neale (one year, $9.5 million remaining, $2.5 million guaranteed) both turn 30 years old soon but would bring solid 3-and-D capabilities.
Still, Simmons’ 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists this season combined with his limited offensive skill set and lengthy injury history indeed make this a daunting proposition for what is essentially a rookie front office.