It would be a Boston Celtics off-season if John Collins’ name wasn’t mentioned in potential trade talks.
Still, while the rumor mill is just getting started, it looks like Collins, 24, could finally be on the move, as the Atlanta Hawks look to reshape a roster that has continually fallen short in the pursuit of significant playoff basketball.
According to Marc Stein in a recent newsletter, a Collins trade is no longer a matter of “if” but “when” and you can be sure numerous teams will be lining up to try and acquire his signature.
“The likelihood of a John Collins trade, league sources indicate, is as high as it’s ever been. Collins just completed the first season of a five-year, $125 million contract, but the newness of his deal didn’t do anything to downgrade external interest in the 6-foot-9 forward that has bubbled leaguewide since talks broke down between Collins and Hawks on a $90 million extension at the start of the 2020-21 season,” Stein wrote.
For Boston, Collins would prove to be a long-term replacement to Al Horford at the power forward position, especially given that his age and contract status align with the other young members of the Celtics core.
Why Collins is a Perfect Fit
Heading into this off-season, the Celtics need some additional scoring, ideally from the wing position. Collins, a career 37.6% from deep, is the ideal blend of scoring with size that Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka have been looking for – a need that was only exasperated when the Golden State Warriors snatched the NBA championship on June 16.
At six-foot-nine, Collins is a legitimate small-ball center option and is capable of defending the perimeter or operating in Udoka’s preferred switching system. Sure, the Hawks haven’t been the best defensive team over the past few years, but Collins’ size and skillset project for him to drastically improve on the defensive end if he finds himself in the right environment.
From a scoring aspect, Cleaning the Glass has tracked the Utah native as averaging 72% around the rim, 44% from floater range, 45% from long mid-range, 34% from the corner three, and 38% from anywhere else on the perimeter this season.
Those types of scoring numbers are exactly what the Celtics are missing, especially when the ball isn’t in Jayson Tatum’s or Jaylen Brown’s hands – furthermore, Collins has an averages usage rate of 19%, meaning he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective – something which bodes well considering how Boston likes their two star wings to initiate the offense.
Making the Money Work
Collins is currently earning $125 million over five years, which equates to an annual average of $25 million – that means the Celtics can’t use their traded player exceptions in any deal to bring the multi-skilled big man to Boston, and nor do they have cap space to absorb a lop-sided deal.
Instead, if the Celtics wanted to pursue Collins, it would mean creating a package of players to entice Atlanta into accepting a deal. Perhaps the Hawks would like to have Al Horford for the last year of his contract, with the hope being that his defensive IQ and veteran leadership can sustain a youthful roster throughout the full season.
Or, perhaps a trade headline by Marcus Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is enough to grease the wheels of any potential trade. Whatever the deal may end up looking like, one thing is for sure, the Celtics will probably be one of the first teams in line if Collins does truly hit the trade market over the off-season.