One of the thinnest positions on the Brooklyn Nets roster this past season was power forward.
Even before their mini-teardown at the trade deadline, Brooklyn was allocating minutes at the 4 to wings players. Despite the NBA’s shift to smaller players and an abundance of wings like Cameron Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith who fit that mold, Brooklyn’s lack of size showed up most prominently in their 29th-ranked rebounding rate.
Enter Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (potentially).
– John Collins
“After years of a declining role and production, it’s finally time Collins leaves Atlanta,” wrote Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report on June 1. “Collins, 25, becomes a building block in Brooklyn, able to start at power forward or come off the bench at either post position.”
With Collins owed over $78 million over the next two seasons – the remainder of a five-year, $125 million deal – bringing him off the bench would be less than ideal.
His minutes at center for the Hawks were not great this past season, either.
Collins is coming off arguably his worst season as a pro averaging 13.1 points, a career-low 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.0 blocks. His efficiency cratered with the big man shooting 50.8% from the floor and 29.2% from beyond the arc, both career-low marks. But, at his best in the 2019-20 season, Collins averaged 21.6 points, 10.1 boards, 1.6 blocks, and 1.5 assists.
That was four years and one gruesome finger injury ago. Brooklyn would have to ask themselves if they want to take on another potential albatross of a contract with Ben Simmons, 26, still on the roster and yet to return to his peak form.
Nets Have Previous Known Interest in John Collins
Brooklyn has been linked to Collins in the past having explored a deal for him last season to no avail and is said to still be intrigued, per an anonymous NBA executive in a conversation with Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney.
“The Nets want some guys who can score, and (Collins) can score,” the exec told Heavy Sports. “They had interest there even before they blew up the team, they’re still curious.”
Collins is certainly an impressive athlete.
Previous reports have named Simmons, Finney-Smith, and Royce O’Neale as pieces the Hawks could potentially have an interest in.
Those deals also called for the Nets to potentially take on Bogdan Bogdanovic and his four-year, $68 million contract which could make the Nets balk since they are already in line to be in the luxury tax if they retain Johnson, a restricted free agent. Further moves will be needed unless ownership is fine paying up for a team that falls short of being a title contender.
This potential deal would shave roughly $1.4 million off their bottom line while unloading a pair of players unlikely to factor into their long-term plans like Collins could. But it takes at least two teams to complete a trade.
Nets and Hawks Could Have Very Different Plans
Harris, 31, is still one of the most lethal shooters in the game, knocking down 42.6% of his threes during the regular season. He is entering the final year of a four-year, $75 million pact that Brooklyn has tried to move before.
Mills, 34, is going into the final year of a two-year, $13.2 million contract.
He averaged 6.2 points, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 rebounds but is in a similar situation as Harris – aging veterans on a team still choosing its next path which could include standing pat.
Atlanta has taken a similar ambivalent approach to Collins’ future, insisting upon his value to them despite constant trade rumors. If the two sides were to agree on this deal, it could help the Hawks more now but the Nets more in the long run with a potential starting lineup of Collins, a healthy Simmons, Johnson, Mikal Bridges, and Nic Claxton offering intriguing versatility.