Report on Hawks offseason: Collins trade still very likely, interest in Ayton but not for max

Atlanta Hawks v Charlotte Hornets
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Despite rumors a trade was coming, John Collins was still a member of the Atlanta Hawks when the NBA Draft ended Thursday.

That doesn’t mean he is in for the long term. The Hawks are still expected to trade him as part of changes to their frontcourt — changes that could include bringing in Deandre Ayton, although not at the price Ayton is hoping to find. All of that according to Chris Kirschner at The Athletic.

Atlanta has been actively looking for a new home for Collins, and while the market has not been what the Hawks hoped, a deal is still highly likely this summer, Kirschner reports.

Before the draft started, I reached out to someone close to Collins who said they felt 50-50 on the power forward remaining with the Hawks past Thursday night but that “he won’t be a Hawk past this summer.” The truth is no one across the league who I’ve spoken with believes Collins will be on the Hawks’ opening night roster…

“He’s done in Atlanta,” a source close to Collins said.

Collins brings value, particularly on the offensive end — 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, shooting 36.4% on 3s. The concern is that Collins still has four years and $102 million left on his contract and teams are not inspired to take on that long-term money. The market for him just has not been robust as the Hawks had hoped. Trading Collins remains the Hawks’ best path to reshaping the roster.

Atlanta primarily is looking to improve its defense, particularly in the paint, which is why they were linked to Suns restricted free agent center Deandre Ayton. That interest is still there, but not at the max-contract numbers the former No. 1 pick and his camp seek.

The Hawks could still pursue Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton in free agency. Sources tell The Athletic that the Hawks’ interest in the 23-year-old would be contingent on landing him for less than a max contract.

With Detroit drafting a center in the lottery (Jalen Duren), Ayton’s most likely path to a max contract offer may have dried up. While it seemed from the outside the Suns may be ready to move on from Ayton (and the feeling was mutual), if there is no max contract on the market Ayton then a return to the Suns is possible (maybe on a shorter deal). It’s also possible that the relationship between Ayton and the Suns is so broken he would ultimately sign an offer sheet with Atlanta for less than the max (an offer Phoenix has the right to match).

Changes are coming to the Atlanta frontcourt this summer. One way or another. But it may not be what we envisioned just a couple of weeks ago.