John Collins has been a fan favorite since entering the league. He’s easily the most likable player on the roster, given his maximum effort and team-first attitude whether he’s on the floor or not. Collins never makes it about himself and rarely looks down or has a negative attitude; he’s really just a great person — apparent in receiving the Sekou Smith Award, which annually honors the player on the team’s roster who best represents themselves and the franchise with professionalism and integrity in their interactions with the media. Everyone loves him, inside and outside the organization.
Tony Ressler, the Hawks majority owner, has made it clear that he is not afraid of the salary tax if the team is competing for championships, but he also realizes just how crippling a max contract can be.
“Not every player should have a max contract, and great players should and will,” Tony Ressler said to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “I still make the argument that you could send two very clear messages, which is we do not expect to be financially constrained and, not or, we fully expect to be reasonably smart in our approach to running the business. If that means we’re committed to fair contracts, please accept me in that category. We are not committed to bad contracts. We are not committed to spending when not appropriate.
The only decision that needs to be made regarding Collins is whether the Hawks match any offer sheet the power forward signs. If the number is too high, the Hawks may not match it. You don’t want to be paying a player like Tobias Harris or Rudy Gobert over $40 million, which both will eventually earn on their current contracts. It is not conducive to winning championships. Obviously, Trae Young will sign a supermax deal in the near future, but giving Collins a similar amount of money could present problems in the future.
The only issue with not matching a max contract offer and letting Collins walk is the opportunity to break into the Luxury Tax threshold, which can only be done by re-signing a team’s own players. If the Hawks were to let him walk, Atlanta would have to comply with the regular $112.4 million salary cap. If Schlenk were to push into the hard cap by signing Collins, it would essentially allow the Hawks general manager to spend more on the roster — equating to bringing in more talent. Though I don’t believe Collins is a max contract-worthy player, this situation may call for Schlenk to overpay slightly to open up some more cap space.