The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
What seemed like a chance for a fresh start for former Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins has turned into the encore he surely hoped to avoid.
“Perhaps the biggest surprise on the trade block is new power forward acquisition John Collins,” wrote Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune on December 14. “The 26-year-old has the lowest on-court/off-court splits on the roster and the team has been frustrated with his slow uptake on picking up the Jazz’s system on both ends of the floor.”
Collins is averaging 14.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 38.3% from beyond the arc. But his 57.3% true shooting mark is a career low while his 14.6 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is the second-worst of his career.
Collins’ career-low PER mark was 13.6 set just last season with the Hawks.
Atlanta traded him to the Jazz for a second-round pick and forward Rudy Gay, who has since been released.
Collins had seen his role diminish in four straight seasons after averaging 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 2019-20. And, although Collins’ usage rate is higher than last season, Larsen notes that the big man is having his “worst” season in many catch-all metrics.
The No. 19 overall pick in 2017, Collins spent six seasons with the Hawks, penning a heartfelt message after the trade, though he did note feeling his development stunted.
He later doubled down on that, saying how refreshing it was to be part of a locker room where there were no egos. Collins clashed with Hawks star Trae Young in 2021 over the latter’s playing style.
The two went on to collaborate on countless highlight-worthy plays. But there was apparently resentment, at least on Collins’ part.
“It made me think that I was doing something wrong. A little lost,” Collins said, per Sarah Todd of the Deseret News on October 11. “I thought I’d been doing things right, leading in my way, helping in the community, being a part of the team and impacting things. … I thought I was moving toward something longstanding.”
The Hawks signed Collins to a five-year, $125 million contract following the 2020-21 season. But trade rumors swirled around him even then, as the team was reluctant to give him the contract and continued to let him operate amid speculation and a decreasing role.
Hawks found John Collns' replacement in Jalen Johnson
For the Hawks, it seemed they may have missed their chance to truly cash in on Collins, settling for a cap-clearing move more than building out their roster.
But the emergence of Jalen Johnson, coupled with the financial flexibility the Collins trade gave them, makes their initial return more palatable. And it appears that they may have gotten out ahead of things.
Larsen believes the remaining three years and $77 million of Collins’ contract will be hard for the Jazz to unload.
It’s an unfortunate turn for the former Hawk.