Report: Hawks may not want to pay John Collins in free agency

dkf190930022 hawks media day

John Collins is a fantastic young big man who many have assumed is part of the long-term plan for Atlanta. Hopefully, that is still the case, but some reports indicate it may not be. According to Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer, Collins may get dealt because the team does not want to pay him north of $20 million annually in free agency:

If the Hawks land Capela, it means they probably will have found a new home for John Collins. Though Collins has had success as a pick-and-roll partner with point guard Trae Young, he’s expected to demand well over $20 million annually, either in an extension this summer or if he hits restricted free agency next summer. Atlanta doesn’t want to invest that type of money in Collins, considering his defensive limitations. The Hawks would prefer a cheaper alternative—such as Capela, or Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, according to sources—and invest any savings in another ball handler who complements Young.

I will start by saying The Ringer is not exactly as credible as hearing things from Woj. But there have been a lot of John Collins rumors in recent days, enough to make Hawks fans nervous.

Now, Collins may have left a negative impression with the team when he received his 25-game suspension earlier this season. However, that also proved his value; the Hawks were absolutely abysmal without him. Losing Collins’ offensive production and bringing in a guy like Tristan Thompson to replace him is just going to make Atlanta a joke — plain and simple. Taking away Trae’s best pick-and-roll option would not be a wise decision by Travis Schlenk. With that being said, it would be best to pair Collins with a true 7-foot center like a Clint Capela, allowing him to play his game, rather than to replace him.

Collins is by far the second-best player on the Hawks, and his offensive production for a big man through his first few seasons has not been rivaled by many historically. His defensive concerns are a bit overblown; he has actually improved a bit as a defender and rebounder this season. Perhaps you can make the argument Collins is not worth a near-max contract right now, but he is 22 years old and well on his way to being that type of player by the end of his next contract. The Hawks also have the most cap space in the NBA this offseason, and the free agency class is thin. Atlanta moving him away would, frankly, be idiotic, and would make me second guess this entire rebuild.

One thing O’Conner is right about is the current value of centers. Finding a center who just rebounds and does not shoot threes, which is what the Hawks have been rumored to be interested in, is also becoming a cheap commodity that they can easily keep patching up year to year down the road. Look at all the great Golden State teams. Look at the Lakers this year, picking up Javale McGee and Dwight Howard for nothing. The big man has been devalued, and the Hawks — if they are patient –can find an economical solution. The biggest mistake here has been forcing Collins to mainly play the 5 in the first place.

For now, I will remain in denial about this report and trust Zach Lowe instead, who says the Hawks do not want to trade him. 

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