Now a member of the Utah Jazz, Collins spoke out about the trade on UtahJazz.com on July 9. He reflected on his upbringing as a “military brat” which included being born in Utah, not far from Salt Lake.
Collins also offered some telling statements about being traded after years of speculation.
“I was excited going to a place that I knew really wanted me and was trying to have me in the organization,” Collins said. “That’s always nice to hear and know, coming to a place that really wants you to excel here. It’s a big sigh of relief knowing that all the talk and trade talk is over. I can go to my new home and start anew.”
Hawks general manager Landry Fields released a statement via the team the day before through the team after the deal had officially been finalized.
“John was a key contributor [to] our team over the past six seasons and played an instrumental role in helping us become a regular playoff contender,” Fields said. “We would like to thank him for his professionalism and leadership over the years and we wish him the best in Utah.”
Collins, 26, was the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and reached his peak with the Hawks, a 20-point, 10-rebound season in 2020.
He also leaves the Hawks with a premium highlight reel of in-game dunks.
It was mostly downhill from there, however, and culminated in Collins having the worst season of his professional career averaging 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting just 29.2% from beyond the arc.
Collins received a five-year, $125 million contract following the Hawks’ surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021 but even that came after some push-and-pull between the two sides with Collins’ representatives said to have urged the Hawsk to move him at one point during early negotiations.
One thing that was never in question was Collins’ effort.
“I leave my heart on the court every time I go out there. I feel like, if that can be appreciated, it’s going to be like the Energizer Bunny: Just keep going.”
The Hawks traded John Collins for cap space
Make no mistake, as rough of a season as Collins had, this was about as pure of a salary dump as it gets. The Hawks did generate a $25.3 million trade exception, the largest in the NBA, but there is no guarantee they will use it before the expiration date a year from now.
Their other moves this offseason have also seemed geared more toward cap preservation than preparation for a significant addition.
Fields let it be known they were seeking breathing room rather than assets in this deal.
“Being able to create financial flexibility moving forward was a major priority,” Fields said. “The added flexibility will give us greater optionality as we look at opportunities to improve our team.”
Forward De’Andre Hunter’s four-year, $90 million contract begins this season, and the Hawks signed Dejounte Murray to a four-year, $120 million contract that starts next season. They also have Onyeka Okongwu and Saddiq Bey who are both extension eligible this offseason.
The Hawks are currently slated to be $21.4 million below the luxury tax threshold before factoring in potential new deals for either of them.
They continue to be linked to Toronto Raptors star forward Pascal Siakam, though he is said to have no interest in such a move which would certainly complicate things. Of course, bringing on Siakam this year, even against his wishes could leave the Hawks in a position to benefit in a sign-and-trade scenario next summer.
But it’s still a risky proposition to trade for a player who has come out against joining the team.
That leaves plenty of intrigue surrounding the team even if there is a strong likelihood that this is the team they come into the 2023-24 season with.