Frequent Nets Trade Target Finally Dealt by Hawks — to Utah

John Collins, traded from the Hawks to the Jazz

Getty John Collins, traded from the Hawks to the Jazz

Alas, the Nets won’t be cashing in on what ranks as one of the longest, most disappointing star-player trade scenarios in recent NBA memory: John Collins of the Hawks, in whom the Nets have expressed interest on multiple occasions, has been traded from Atlanta at long last, going to Utah for the scant return of forward Rudy Gay and a second-round draft pick.

For Brooklyn, the move comes with some disappointment, as the team had an interest in shipping a package centered around shooter Joe Harris going to Atlanta in exchange for Collins. The Hawks, though, resisted making a trade involving Harris—who is 31, five years younger than Gay—for purely financial reasons.

“This was all about the tax, this deal,” one league executive told Heavy Sports on Monday. “This is an old-school salary dump. The Hawks, they had other offers for Collins on the table that would have saved them money but nothing that saved them the money they’re getting here. The Jazz are getting something for nothing because that is the position a lot of teams are in—you have to give away something for nothing because of the new CBA.”

Hawks Will Save $19 Million in Collins Trade

Indeed, Gay will make just $6.4 million next season, much less than Collins’ $25.3 million. Such salary disparity is only allowed in NBA trades if the team receiving the higher-paid player is far enough under the salary cap, as the Jazz are.

The Nets, of course, are not. Thus, they could not offer the Hawks the same level of salary relief off the floor, which made the Jazz deal more valuable. That was true even though on the floor, Harris (20.6 minutes in 74 games, 7.6 points, 42.6% 3-point shooting) is a much more productive player than Gay (56 games, 14.6 minutes, 5.2 points, 25.4% from the 3-point line).

Under NBA rules, the best the Nets could have done would be to trade Harris and a minimum player for Collins, which would have brought the Hawks a savings of only about $3 million, far less than the $19 million in extra wiggle room they’re getting by trading Collins for Gay.

The Hawks have concerns about De’Andre Hunter’s $90 million extension kicking in, as well as extensions for Dejounte Murray and Saddiq Bey.

Harris Likely to be Shopped This Summer

Both Harris and Gay have expiring contracts this year. Collins’ goes on for another three seasons, at $25.3 million this year, and $26.6 million over the final two years, with the last year being a player option.

Collins remains a bit of a mystery, given a hefty five-year, $125 million contract by Atlanta in August of 2021. The previous year, Collins had averaged 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds, with 39.9% 3-point shooting in 63 games. His production has declined since, down to 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds last year, as his trade value cratered.

There is a belief that Collins can resuscitate his value in Utah, and that the Jazz will look to trade him on after this season. Perhaps the Nets—badly in need of a true power forward—will look to get back into the bidding for Collins then, if they don’t fill the 4-hole in the interim.

As for the Nets’ trade prospects, expect them to continue shopping Harris as the team continues to build a younger core.

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