Shams Charania of The Athletic reported today that several teams are checking in on John Collins to see how willing the Hawks might be to move him. The now third-year power forward out of Wake Forest has blossomed into one of the best players in his draft class, despite being selected 19th overall, proving to be a force on the glass, an elite dunker as well as an above-average three-point shooter. Every contending team should be interested in a budding star on a team-friendly contract with multiple years of control. Now while Charania did not say how far some of these talks have gone, it’s in the best interest of any 13-36 club to evaluate all of their options, and that includes trading away one of their brightest stars.
The only untradeable player on the roster is Trae Young. John Collins, while valuable, could allow the Hawks to upgrade at another position of greater need, or they could use him to land even more future assets. The point is, when things are this bad, nothing is off the table. However, how seriously — and for what reasons — should the Hawks be considering parting ways with one of their building blocks, especially while ownership is in a frenzy to improve quickly?
Why should they consider it?
This part is straightforward: to get better. Ownership has made it apparent that they want to speed up this rebuilding process. That is reportedly why the Hawks have been in on names such as Andre Drummond, which makes sense because — from a long-term perspective — trading any assets for a pending free agent when you have a zero percent chance of making the playoffs is insanity. But sometimes ownership acts with their hearts rather than their brains. Moral of the story: let the GMs do their jobs.
That’s not to say there isn’t a trade out there that could be beneficial for the Hawks, but it has to make sense in the long run. This core is so young; this season should never be the focus. However, if Atlanta can use Collins to bring in a star that is under contract for multiple years or another excellent player at a position of great need, like Clint Capela — who the Hawks have reported interest in — you could make a case for it.
Beginning with the first scenario, let’s say the Hawks were to go after a superstar that may not be satisfied with his current situation, like Karl Anthony-Towns (for the record, I don’t think the Timberwolves would trade Towns, but he is a perfect example). In that case, packaging Collins in a trade with picks or other assets makes sense. The Hawks would immediately be a better team now and looking ahead. While Collins is a potential superstar, there is also the possibility that he peaked a little early, and this is who he is, which is still a borderline All-Star-caliber power forward. However, upgrading to a player like Towns or any other superstar that might be available is something Schlenk should be actively attempting to do.
The second case is for Clint Capela, or someone similar to him. Collins is fantastic, but with the way the Hawks play, a defensive-minded center that can crash the glass and play above the rim is more useful. Capela is a miles better defensive presence in the paint than Collins, which is necessary when Trae Young is playing point guard. He’s also a better rebounder and terrific in the pick and roll. On top of that, Capela is under contract at a reasonable rate through 2023, and the Hawks might also be able to acquire an extra piece with Capela if they were to make this deal, adding toughness to Atlanta’s flashy young core — something they are desperately lacking.
Why shouldn’t they consider it?
This answer is much less complex. The Hawks should have no interest in picking up future assets. They are turning their corner in the rebuild, and the goal from next year on has to be to win now. It’s getting to the point where Atlanta has so many young players and future selections that not all of them are even going to be able to see the floor.
John Collins finished just shy of averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds in his second season. And had he been able to play a full 82 games (he was limited to 61 because of injuries), I think he would have done it. If you look at the list of players that have accomplished that in their second season, it’s littered with Hall-of-Famers from Shaq to Anthony Davis. Collins is an All-Star caliber player today, who averaged 19.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in January. He’s one of the reasons the Hawks’ future is so bright, and this could be the tip of the iceberg in his development.
I’ve been on the John Collins hype train since his rookie year and thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow into one of the most exciting young players in the NBA. He’s relentless on the boards, a much-improved shooter that will only get better, an underrated defensive player, and perfect in the pick-and-roll with Trae Young. With that being said, there are a few stars out there I would risk moving him for — like Bradley Beal or Karl Anthony-Towns — but Clint Capela is not one of those players.
Capela will always have his role in the NBA, and he’s exactly what the Hawks need right now, but not at the expense of one of their best players. Collins is arguably already a better player than Capela, and his ceiling is much higher. Not to mention, Collins is also cheaper and under team control longer, given he will be a restricted free agent at the end of his contract.
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