The deadline for teams to come to a contract agreement with first-round picks entering their fourth season was today at 6:00 PM ET. By this time, the Hawks were hoping to have reached an extension with their rising star John Collins, but they could not get anything finalized, which means he will become a restricted free agent after next season. He’ll be able to test the waters of free agency and find out how the rest of the league values him, but the Hawks will be able to match any offer he signs with another team.
After averaging 21.6 points and over 10 rebounds per contest with ridiculous shooting percentages of 58.3/40.1/80, Collins believes he’s shown enough to earn a max contract extension. However, it’s evident that the Hawks aren’t quite so sure he’s worth that money yet, and they’d like to keep their options open with so many marquee free agents set to hit the open market next offseason.
While electric last season, Collins only played in 41 games because he was handed a 25-game suspension due to a positive PED test. That very well could be a factor in the Hawks hesitancy to offer him a max contract (or close to it), but it could really come down to management being unsure of Collins’ efforts translating to wins. His numbers look flashy in the box score, but it will start feeling a whole lot like empty calories if those stats don’t start leading to wins this season given how much money ownership doled out to make the team more competitive.
With the deadline passed and no agreement made, the Hawks are left with two paths to take. They can attempt to make a move before this season’s trade deadline with Collins as the centerpiece to bring in a bigger star to pair with Trae Young, or they can wait and see what happens next offseason.
The great thing is the Hawks have flexibility, which is why I always thought a contract extension before this season with Collins was a long shot. He’s been fantastic, but he still has to prove he can help the Hawks become a winner before receiving a max contract extension. I think he’ll do just that, but if he doesn’t, Travis Schlenk has plenty of options next offseason. He can attempt to bring in one of the high-profile free agents that he may feel is a better fit than Collins, and if he’s unable to do that, he can always match any offer that Collins signs. There’s also the option to sign-and-trade him, which would provide the Hawks with additional assets while also keeping financial flexibility.
This isn’t ideal for Collins. I’m sure he would have loved to have signed a mega-deal by now. However, it would have been a bit pre-mature for Schlenk to give into Collins’ demands with less than a full season of All-Star caliber basketball under his belt. He’ll have every opportunity to prove he’s deserving of such a contract this season, and perhaps it even lights a fire under him to be even better.