Bulls ‘Have Had Eyes on’ $125M Athletic Forward: NBA Exec

Chicago Bulls

Getty John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks reacts after hitting a three-point basket

The Chicago Bulls are thinking big and keeping tabs on Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, per league sources. Chicago is in search of quality size, rebounding, and perimeter shooting this offseason.

Collins, 24, possesses all three and then some. That is why the Hawks aren’t likely to give him away for peanuts.

Could the Bulls put together the requisite assets to pry him loose?

It is possible depending on what other offers they are getting, of course. But whether or not they would want to is the better question. Bulls vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, has been preaching continuity, explains the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley.

Collins’ Fit on the Bulls

The 6-foot-9 Collins was one of seven players to average at least 16 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 36.0% or better from beyond the arc last season, per NBA.com. Despite that, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer said Collins was a player the Hawks are “most interested” in moving during an appearance on the June 8 episode of the “Dunc’d On” podcast.

At his peak, Collins is a 20-point, 10-rebound performer with a penchant for putting his opponent on a poster.

He commemorated this dunk on Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers with a t-shirt.

Still, an executive tells Heavy’s Sean Deveney that the Hawks are “considering everything” and that the Bulls have taken notice of Collins. There does appear to be a catch, though, that could ultimately keep a deal from ever coming to fruition.

“The Bulls have had eyes on John Collins but I don’t think they’re willing to give up what it takes to get him.”

Karnisovas mentioned athleticism as something the front office could potentially target this offseason. Collins has that in droves.

Collins is an interesting case. He is the Hawks’ longest-tenured player, drafted just five years ago, with the 19th-overall pick out of Wake Forest. Hawks president Travis Schlenk described Collins as the “heart and soul” of the team on the Jim Rome show in June of 2021.

Could the Bulls Land Collins?

Rumors of Collins being available in a trade have been consistent with the team exploring the possibility of acquiring Ben Simmons before he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, per The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner.

Schlenk has also wondered if it was “such a great idea” to return most of the 2021 roster.

He has tried to temper expectations of a roster overhaul created by himself and other members of the organization as well as ownership.

Yet, rumors have been a constant. Fischer reported on the June 11 episode of “The Athletic NBA Show” podcast Collins’ representatives urged the Hawks to trade the forward amid early contract negotiations.

The interesting part is the Bulls not being willing to give up “what it takes” to land him. Only two players that would seem to both interest the Hawks and be off-limits from the Bulls’ perspective: Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams.

LaVine is an unrestricted free agent who could say he wants to go to the Hawks and force the Bulls to consider a sign-and-trade.

Center Nikola Vucevic or guard Lonzo Ball works financially, per Spotrac’s Roster Manager. But Atlanta has no use for Vucevic and Ball’s injury concerns complicate things.

A package centered around Williams — along with guards Coby White and Alex Caruso — fits what the executive is describing better. However, Fischer reported that the Bulls were unwilling to include Williams in any deal for three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, of the Utah Jazz.

Things to Consider

It makes sense that the Bulls would likewise refuse to add Williams in a deal for Collins despite the latter’s immense talent. Collins does have an All-Rookie selection to his name. But he is far from Gobert in terms of accolades.

Injuries have become a bit of a theme as Collins has failed to appear in 60 games in two of the past three seasons.

In his defense, he has surpassed that mark three times over his first five seasons.

Collins suffered finger and foot injuries that limited him to 54 games during the regular season. He made his return in the postseason. But he was not nearly as effective averaging 9.4 points and 4.6 boards while shooting 48.7% from the floor.

He did, however still hit 36.4% of his threes ranking fourth on the team in the postseason.

There is also the matter of his dissatisfaction with his role in Atlanta, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

It is fair to wonder if a similar situation would occur with the Bulls where he would be no better than the third option. He has been paid like the second option in Atlanta which has not worked to this point.

Collins is also heading into the second year of a five-year, $125 million pact. He is locked in through the 2025 season with a $26 million player option for 2026, per Spotrac.com.

Bulls Thinking Big

The other apparent theme is the Bulls’ interest in making a significant upgrade. While Karnisovas has pounded the desk for continuity, they continue to be linked to big names via trade.

LaVine’s free agency has played a part. As has the Bulls’ leap from being a lottery team in 2021 to first-place only to fall back to the sixth seed by the season’s end.

They appear ripe for making the final move to take the next step, writes BasketballNews.com’s Evan Sidery. Collins would certainly be more cost-effective than Gobert.

Fischer reported on the February 2 episode of Locked On’s “NBA Big Board” podcast that the Bulls would include Williams for a player they viewed as “the piece”. If they are, in fact, unwilling to send him for Collins, that is a clear indication they do not view him as that piece despite their interest.

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