It’s been almost three weeks now since the Atlanta Hawks traded away their longest-tenured player, John Collins, to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Rudy Gay (who has since been moved) and future draft compensation.
“It was definitely tough seeing him go,” said Young. “But at the same time, this is a business, and JC knows that too. We’ve had conversations over the years… if we don’t win, things will change in a heartbeat.”
He also addressed how much fun he had as a point guard playing with a player of Collins’ athleticism.
“Me as a teammate, I loved playing with JC. I’ve thrown a lot of lobs to him,” explained Young. “He made me look really good a lot.”
This was an inevitable conclusion to the Hawks’ Young-Collins pairing
Collins and Young reportedly had a less-than-ideal relationship behind the scenes at times during their tenures in Atlanta, although they always publicly maintained that there was no animosity between them.
Still, it was easy to see by the end of the 2022-23 season that Collins was no longer a viable fit for an offense that needs to give Young maximum room to operate, and so it came to be that the former Wake Forest standout was traded.
During their five years together, Collins and Young produced several highlight-reel plays, including perhaps most notably an off-the-backboard lob that was executed to perfection in a tightly contested road playoff game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
That play came during Atlanta’s magical 2021 postseason run that saw the fifth-seeded Hawks upset their way all the to Game 6 of the conference finals. Perhaps no play encapsulated the spirit and joy that team played with better than the aforementioned lob, which displayed both Collins’ electrifying athleticism and Young’s sheer audacity to a national audience.
However, as Atlanta Hawks fans know, things have gone downhill quickly since the highs of a couple of years ago. The last two seasons have been defined by mediocre play, reported turmoil in the locker room, and most importantly, early playoff exits that have called into question just how lucky Atlanta may or may not have gotten in 2021.
Collins’ level of play dipped dramatically following a finger injury in 2022 that he still doesn’t seem to have recovered from, as indicated by his 29% shooting clip from three-point range this past season despite being consistently left wide open.
The fact that Collins was forced to play alongside another non-shooter in Clint Capela due to his defensive weaknesses severely limited the room that both Young and Dejounte Murray had to operate, which in turn made Atlanta’s offense very predictable at times.
How much of the Collins trade is due to his play alone and how much of it is due to the roster needing a shakeup and his name being the obvious odd one out is the subject of some debate. It’s important to note that Collins was far from the only thing wrong with the 2023 Atlanta Hawks, a team that teetered around .500 for an NBA-record number of games and was dropped off by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
Things like De’Andre Hunter’s inconsistency, Murray’s bizarre stretches of disappearance at times, the Nate McMillan Effect that certainly didn’t help matters for the first two-thirds of the season, and a general lack of perimeter defense (a problem of which Young is very much a part) all contributed to the malaise that encompassed 2023.
It’s also important to remember that Collins consistently presented himself as a team-first player (when he wasn’t getting suspended for PEDs) that always seemed to have his teammates’ back and radiate positivity even when things weren’t going well. Those qualities, along with his high-flying athleticism and the signature plays he generated, will surely be missed.
However, a change was needed, and thankfully, the Hawks’ front office pulled the plug on an experiment that was clearly not working. It’s nice to see that Young harbors no hard feelings towards his former roll-man.