John Collins was the first key piece of the Hawks’ rebuild.
The power-forward-center got suspended 25 games for a performance-enhancing drug. Trae Young became the face of the franchise. Atlanta traded for center Clint Capela, whose rim-rolling overlaps with Collins’. The Hawks drafted combo forward De'Andre Hunter, whose time at small forward will be limited with Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter on the wing.
Where does that leave Collins, who will be eligible for a contract extension this summer?
Chris Kirschner of The Athletic:
Sources around the league suggest there’s hesitation on the Hawks’ part when it comes to giving Collins significant money, which is why teams inquired about his availability.
“I definitely feel like I am in max contract contention. If I finish this season averaging 20 and 10, the other guys who are averaging 20 and 10 are max-caliber guys. I’m in that conversation and feel like I am worthy of being extended as such. That’s for the Hawks to decide and figure it out. If you want to look at numbers and flat-out play, I definitely feel like I’ve earned it. But the team situation, future cap and all that, now you have a contract negotiation.”
I don’t begrudge Collins for wanting the max (which projects to be worth $181 million over five years).
Atlanta also shouldn’t offer him anywhere near that much on an extension.
Collins is still under contract for next season. If they don’t extend him, the Hawks can make Collins a restricted free agent in 2021. If he continues to progress, Atlanta can pay him then. His flight risk is minimal.
On the flip side, this only adds to the noise about the Hawks considering trading Collins.
Collins is quietly having a strong season. Overshadowed by his suspension, Atlanta’s losing and Young’s breakout year, Collins is averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s an excellent finisher (75% in the restricted area) and emerging 3-point shooter (41% on 3.5 attempts per game). His defense must tighten, and he brings little creation ability. Overall, the 22-year-old would interest many teams.
Collins is clearly willing to negotiate. Perhaps, he and Atlanta will agree to an extension this offseason.
But I’d at least keep an eye on him on the trade block.