A trade rumor season doesn’t seem official until John Collins‘ name is mentioned.
Reporter Shams Charania of The Athletic said on Sunday that the Atlanta Hawks “started exploratory trade conversations” regarding the skilled forward, and that the Phoenix Suns were one among the teams mentioned as having interest.
On Wednesday, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports offered further, saying that the Utah Jazz would be a club that would want Collins. According to Fischer:
According to league sources, Utah is seriously exploring a move for Hawks forward John Collins, a sign that the Jazz are looking to strengthen their championship-caliber roster. However, it is unlikely that Collins will make a landing in Salt Lake City at this time. According to reports, the Hawks’ offer to trade Collins for Markkanen to the Jazz fell flat.
Reasons abound for why the Hawks might want Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen is on fire this year, scoring a career-high 22.3 points per game (64.2 percent on twos, 36.1 percent on 5.7 threes). He’s not only more proficient behind the gun than Collins, but he’s also more amenable to firing from a variety of positions. Markkanen is capable of a wide variety of offensive moves, including pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off-ball relocations, and movement triples off screens.
Markkanen might relieve some of the pressure on Trae Young and Dejounte Murray to create by scoring independently (he gets help on 56.7% of his twos and 74.4% of his threes, compared to 67.2/85.7 for Collins).
Even if a relocation doesn’t seem likely at the moment, understanding Utah’s interest is a bit more complicated.
The Jazz’s 12-7 record is a result of the fourth-best offense in the NBA. Collins’s ability to manipulate defenses by rolling (and sliding) through ball screens might benefit from a switch to the position of a player who can better take use of this talent. Collins would be a good screening partner for their ball-screen-heavy guards if his jump shot improved (he is making just 26.9% of his threes this year after making roughly 39% of them in the prior three seasons).
Collins may not be the answer for Utah’s formidable but slipping defense. While he has certain defensive advantages over Kelly Olynyk, including as superior mobility and weak-side rim protection, his total defensive rating is still neutral. Olynyk has generally played in a drop to less-than-stellar results, while Collins may be more comfortable playing at the level, thus it could be argued that the Jazz would have more freedom to ratchet up their pressure on ball-screens if they had him.
Olynyk seems to be the most valuable asset heading back to Atlanta if a trade is completed. The Hawks would get more open looks because to his ability to create space and make secondary (and, to be honest, arbitrary) plays in the half court.
(Secondly, the Hawks’ tax status is something to keep an eye on. Trading Collins’ guaranteed salary for Olynyk’s contract that is about to expire might be more beneficial to the Hawks than the team’s die-hard fans would want to admit.
The exciting aspect of this agreement is working out the details. According to Fischer’s article, Mike Conley’s pay may bring them there, but it raises two concerns.
Should the Hawks pursue another point guard, even if he has performed similarly to Conley before his injury?
To what extent would the Jazz be interested in trading Conley for this package? When they need something made quickly and reliably, he’s still their best bet on the ball-screens. It’s easy to see a two-man showdown between Conley and Collins in the latter minutes of the game, but Sexton and Collins may provide a different picture in the beginning.
Malik Beasley, a sharpshooter (38.8% from three on 7.0 tries over the previous four seasons), may be the solution, given his contract (a $16.5 million club option for next season) will be voided this summer. As part of the “we’re taking on the Collins money” tax from the Jazz, the trade may be expanded to include a swap of Rudy Gay ($6.5 million player option for next year) and Justin Holiday (expiring).
Even though I missed the original chat on my bingo card, I still believe there is more talking to be done between the two sides.