According to Chris Kirschner and Sam Amick of The Athletic, the third-year big man from Wake Forest is allegedly unhappy playing next to the ball-dominant offensive talent of Trae Young. Per reports, Collins has asked for more ball movement and a speedier transition into head coach Lloyd Pierce’s offensive sets.
It’s not an unreasonable request. Collins has a remarkable arsenal in his own right, able to score and rebound already at an elite level, as evidenced by his career-high averages of 21.6 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game, and 1.6 blocks per game on 58-40-80 shooting splits just a season ago. But everything runs through Trae Young in Atlanta, and there’s simply no way around that even for a player of Collins’ calibre.
To be sure, these numbers have taken a significant dip across the board thus far in the season. Through nine games with Atlanta, Collins has posted averages of 17.2 points, 7.8 boards and 0.8 swats per contest. With no contract extension agreed, Collins trade rumors have been plentiful.
The man can surely score the basketball, and it’s certainly natural for him to want an elevated role in setting up the team’s offense with his dynamic skillset. As it stands, he is sometimes relegated to either a roll man or a spot-up shooter within Pierce’s system, staying on the wings or cutting baseline while his shorter and craftier teammate goes to work with the ball in isolation.
Should the Hawks decide to indeed move on from him, Collins is an interesting trade prospect. He’s what you’d call the perfect big man in today’s NBA with his mobility and his excellent shooting from distance.
John Collins. Clear the lane 😤 pic.twitter.com/eSTP1So37k
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 7, 2020
Besides managing tensions, there’s something in it for the Hawks, too, who signed Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari to rather substantial contracts in the offseason despite their well-established blend of youth and depth. JC is likely going to ask management for the same max contract they appear set to be granting Young, and if they were to move on from Collins, they would be rewarded with a bit more financial flexibility moving forward.
Potential Collins trade destinations
For instance, the Sacramento Kings are looking to move on from their own young big man in Marvin Bagley. It’s no secret that he hasn’t panned out quite the way they expected when they drafted him instead of Luka Dončić and Trae Young. Exchanging power forwards would be a bit of an adjustment, as Bagley does not sport the prowess from deep that Collins has, with a career 28.8% shooting clip from distance.
Oklahoma City could go all in for the young big too. Their war chest of draft picks and competent wings gives them the assets to trade for practically anyone they so please. They’re also looking for talented young players to build around their young and budding star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. A Shai-Collins pick-and-roll would be an intriguing prospect with no shortage of options offensively.
The upcoming rookie class is projected to be significantly more talented than that of 2020, and the Hawks could look to acquire more depth while comfortably slotting Gallinari in to take the place of Collins.
The Cleveland Cavaliers could look to move on from seasoned veteran Kevin Love, or build a Collins trade package around yet another young gun in Kevin Porter Jr. They certainly have a litany of frontcourt talent to offer, and Atlanta won’t be missing Collins’ shooting with a sniper like Love to take his place, allowing Gallinari to still come off the bench.
Other teams are in the mix too. The Rockets seem destined to offload James Harden one way or another, and playing John Collins next to Christian Wood might be too interesting a prospect to pass up. Kyle Kuzma may (and should) still be in trade conversations with the Lakers, and the Los Angeles Lakers could be looking for another young star to build around once James ages.
Of course, all this is mere speculation in the event a trade does happen. But as Collins put it when sought for comment by The Athletic: “Trae is my brother regardless.” Perhaps the simple solution is for Pierce to set up more actions for him in his Trae Young-dominated system.