Proposed Trade Swaps Celtics Starter for Big Man Eyeing Max Deal

Celtics swap Marcus Smart for John Collins in trade proposal

Getty Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets and John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks battle for a rebound.

As of now, Marcus Smart looks poised to inherit the starting point guard vacancy left behind by the departed Kemba Walker. Then again, as Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix recently noted, there appears to be a “really good market” shaping up for the defensive stalwart should the Celtics opt to shop the veteran mainstay.

With a contract decision looming in regards to Smart, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley believes Boston would be best served to spend their money elsewhere, more specifically in the frontcourt. The B/R columnist mustered up a hypothetical trade that would do just that, swapping both Smart and fellow guard Romeo Langford for Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins. Here’s how the proposal shapes up:

  • Boston Celtics receive:
    • John Collins (sign-and-trade)
  • Atlanta Hawks receive:
    • Marcus Smart
    • Romeo Langford

John Collins needs a new deal, and Atlanta seems less than committal about paying it. Hawks governor Tony Ressler said the team hopes to reach a ‘fair agreement’ with Collins, per The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner, which makes it sound like there’s a walk-away price point for Atlanta.

The Celtics could be more willing to meet that number since Collins is on the same timeline as star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With these three leading the offense, Boston could have the backbone of a top-10 attack.

As for Atlanta, Smart would help balance this offense-leaning roster as a two-time All-Defensive first-team honoree. Romeo Langford, meanwhile, should still have time to tap into the talent that made him the 14th overall pick in 2019.

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Is Collins Destined for a Max Deal?

Collins has been long floated as a possible Celtics target for quite some time now. The 23-year-old was a favorite amongst trade speculation leading up to this season’s trade deadline, with The Athletic’s Shams Charania reporting that Collins was, indeed, “a player of interest for the Celtics.”

Whether it was reluctance on Boston’s part or stubbornness on Atlanta’s end, a deal was ultimately never struck — a potentially costly gaffe for the Celtics should they pursue a sign-and-trade this summer.

Per Charania, those around the NBA believe that Collins put forth an impressive enough postseason run with the Hawks this season to warrant a max payday.

Across the league, many believe Hawks forward/center John Collins increased his value as a maximum contract-caliber player during Atlanta’s run to the Eastern Conference finals. In 18 postseason games, Collins averaged 13.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 35.7 percent 3-point shooting.

Collins, who reportedly left $90 million on the table during failed extension talks with Atlanta last offseason, would net a four-year, $125.9 million deal from a non-Hawks suitor as a max-contract player.

Expected Interest in Collins

After posting 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in 2019-20, Collins saw a near full-fledged dip across the board during the 2020-21 regular season. In 63 games, the Wake Forest product averaged 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest — his lowest output in each category since his rookie campaign back in 2017. Still, he’s one of the more tantalizing young bigs in the league with the ability to switch on defense while also stretching the floor on offense, owning a career 38.0% 3-point percentage.

While some may question Collins’ standing as a legitimate max player, there’s no questioning where Collins believes he falls on that spectrum. “I definitely feel like I am in max contract contention,” he told The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner back in March of 2020.

More likely than not, Collins likely isn’t alone in his thinking. Charania reported that the “Dallas [Mavericks], Miami [Heat], San Antonio [Spurs] and Minnesota [Timberwolves] are among the teams expected to show interest in Collins, believing he could be attainable as a restricted free agent.”

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