Grade the trade: Atlanta Hawks send John Collins to the Utah Jazz

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

Atlanta Hawks grade: C+ (Pending use of trade exception)

During the 2023 NBA Draft, a report surfaced that the Hawks’ front office had orders from the top to get below the luxury tax prior to the start of the season. Atlanta was facing an $8-plus million luxury tax bill next season. They have never paid the luxury tax under team governor Tony Ressler, though he has suggested he would do so.

“The Hawks are under a get out of the luxury tax,” said ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst on the ‘Brian Windohorst & The Hoop Collective’ on June 22. “They’ve spent a lot on signing guys…so they’ve got to shed some salary.”

There was a caveat on that: the team has to be a title contender.

The Hawks as previously constructed were 42-42 this past season — 37-34 with Collins in the lineup — and got bounced out of the playoffs in the first round for the second year in a row.

Collins is also coming off his worst season as an established pro averaging 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds and saw his three-point efficiency plummet to 29.2% this past season, though he did still manage to average 1.0 blocks per game for the fourth straight season and the fifth time in his six-year career.

On the surface, Atlanta’s return on investment here is less than they received from the Sacramento Kings for Kevin Huerter (the No. 19 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft): a lottery-protected first-round pick and rotation pieces in Maurice Harkless and Justin Holiday.

Gay, 36, averaged 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds while seeing the fewest minutes of his career for the Jazz in 2022-23.

Per Wojnarowski, he exercised his $6.5 million player option to facilitate the deal.

The Hawks receive a middling grade here pending their use of the $25-plus million trade exception, currently the largest in the NBA, this move created. Wojnarowski says they could be players in a trade for a star that could push them back into the luxury tax but notes that they have a year to use it.

They also get the chance to see more from younger players Onyeka Oknogwu though Jalen Johnson stands to benefit more if the Hawks don’t add another starting-level power forward over Saddiq Bey before next season.