Shooting has been one of the Boston Celtics’ most significant flaws this season, despite the team consistently generating open shots.
NBA Stats has the Celtics at 22nd in three-point percentage and 23rd for field goal percentage after 48 regular-season games. At this point, it’s clear that these poor shooting numbers aren’t an anomaly, and the team needs to explore opportunities to upgrade the shooters on their roster urgently.
According to Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz, the Celtics could be enticed into a potential trade for John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks in a move that would quickly improve their perimeter shooting and front-court depth. However, the trade would cost them Marcus Smart and Josh Richardson.
“A Collins-Smart-based package makes too much sense for both teams. Collins would slide into the starting power forward role between Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams III and is eighth overall in three-point shooting (42.6 percent) this season. He’s giving the Hawks 17.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and is in the first season of a five-year, $125 million deal,” Swartz wrote.
Collins Contract Would Hurt Financial Flexibility
Brad Stevens has toed a fine line since entering the Celtics front office. He has made future cap flexibility his immediate priority, as seen by the recent Juancho Hernangomez trade and the Kemba Walker deal during the off-season.
The Athletic’s John Hollinger recently noted, “For a team that’s in the middle of the Eastern Conference pack and has been pretty financially conservative even at their peak of spendthrift excess, I can’t imagine them being over the tax line on Feb. 11 or leaving any chance of that happening (i.e. by Jaylen Brown unexpectedly hitting some of his incentives) at some point after that.”
However, the reason Stevens has walked the cap room tightrope is so that when a potential star becomes available, the Celtics can pounce to strike a deal. And while Collins isn’t necessarily a star, his skill set seems tailor-made for the Celtics as a tertiary offensive outlet and reliable defensive piece.
Still, the 24-year-old forward comes with a hefty salary, having just entered the first year of a five-year $125 million contract that rises from $23 million this season to $26.5 million in 2025. Sure, acquiring Collins wouldn’t kill the Celtics’ ability to remain flexible from a future cap standpoint. Still, it would certainly make things more complicated, which may deter Stevens from pulling the trigger midway through the season.
Collins Fits The Celtics System
Looking past Collins’ contract value, it’s clear that his skillset provides Boston with a massive upgrade at the power forward position and would allow Ime Udoka to move away from the much-maligned “double-big” lineup he’s leaned on throughout the first 48 games of his coaching tenure.
The Florida native is a career 38.9% shooter from deep on 2.5 shot attempts per game and has shown consistency when asked to handle a slightly larger offensive load. Furthermore, Collins is a trustworthy rebounder and can regularly get you double-digits on the boards, while his career average is currently sitting at 8.4 per game.
Of course, the notion of moving Brown back down to shooting guard and Tatum back into a small forward role is also an exciting caveat of this potential trade. Both of Boston’s All-Star wings could thrive in roles where the floor is spaced out for them, as defenders wouldn’t be willing to help off of Collins, while Robert Williams would be causing havoc with relentless rolls to the rim.
Unfortunately, while this trade solves one of the Celtics’ most prevalent issues, Collins doesn’t resolve the team’s glaring need for a playmaker and removes their best passer in Smart. The most likely outcome would be that Dennis Schroder remained on the team until the end of the season, and then the Celtics would pursue a new starting guard in free agency, which is both risky and wise in equal measure.
The final thing of note is that should the Celtics make this trade and acquire Collins, it would silence the rumors linking Brown with a move away from the team. Despite Stevens consistently batting away those rumors, the star wing has recently been touted as a potential trade chip in deals with the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings.
The trade deadline is two weeks away, and anything could happen, but for now, the Celtics remain on their financial flexibility route for better or worse.