On Monday, the Atlanta Hawks finally fulfilled a trade rumor that had been brewing for numerous seasons by trading power forward John Collins to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Rudy Gay and a second-round pick.
The rumor mill had been spinning around Collins for at least the past two seasons and in some cases even further back than that for the former Wake Forest Demon Deacon, who prior to the trade had been the longest-tenured Hawk after being drafted by the team in 2017.
The move was viewed by most as more of a salary dump than anything else, but maybe in the case of the Hawks it’s meant to be addition by subtraction–it became abundantly clear throughout the last two seasons that Collins’ play style is no longer compatible with Atlanta’s vision for its Trae Young-led offense, especially considering the power forward’s abysmal 29% three-point percentage this past season.
The reality is that Collins’ offensive playstyle–most effective as a roll man who operates in the paint–and defensive limitations–he has to play next to another rim protector due to his size–make his productivity extremely situation-specific. In fact, there are probably only a handful of environments in the NBA where Collins’ strengths would outweigh his well-documented weaknesses, and Atlanta certainly wasn’t one of them.
So how should the Hawks proceed after trading John Collins?
Option 1: Stay in-house
Currently, the Hawks have at least two immediate options to replace Collins at the power forward spot already in their locker room.
One is Saddiq Bey, who joined the team midseason after a trade from the Detroit Pistons and turned into a reliable outside threat off of the Atlanta bench, shooting an even 40% from three-point range on the year. While Bey is undersized and an unreliable-at-best defender, the spacing that his shooting would provide Young and Dejounte Murray would be extremely valuable for the offense, especially considering that Atlanta was already among the league’s worst defensive teams anyway.
Another name that could be inserted is Jaylen Johnson, who saw increased playing time in his second season, especially after Quin Snyder took over. While Johnson has an extremely intriguing skillset and certainly should receive even more minutes this year, it may be a bit too early to start him right off the bat, especially considering his outside jumper is not much, if any, better than Collins’.
Option 2: Explore the market
NBA free agency starts in less than a week and the trade market has already been open for business for a while, so Atlanta will certainly have a plethora of options to fill Collins’ void.
One name to explore on the free agent market is Boston’s Grant Williams, who the Celtics played sparingly throughout this past postseason and may be willing to let go of, especially considering their recent addition of Kristaps Porzingis.
Williams is a 40 percent three-point shooter and a versatile defender who doesn’t bring the explosive athleticism of Collins, but whose skillset aligns much more seamlessly with Atlanta’s current needs.
Another name the Hawks could look into via trade is Washington’s Kyle Kuzma, fresh off of a 21 PPG season. The former Laker can score in a variety of ways and while he isn’t the best defender, still has the size and quickness to not be a total negative on that end.
Another interesting name on the market this year is Portland’s Jerami Grant. The Swiss army knife power forward is set to hit unrestricted free agency after averaging 20.5 points on 40% three-point shooting this season, in addition to being an elite, versatile defender. While Grant’s price tag will probably be higher than the other two options listed, it would still benefit Atlanta to at least get in contact with his agent, as basketball-wise, he would be a perfect fit next to Young, Murray, and company.
Whatever direction the Hawks choose to go, they made the right decision in trading Collins. He was by all accounts an uplifting locker room spirit and well-respected by the media, but there came a certain point where his weaknesses became too much for an already flawed roster to overcome.
Look for the Hawks to continue to be active in the coming days.