It’s been suggested that Hawks big man John Collins is on the trade block, and the San Antonio Spurs should do everything in their power to pursue him.
Oftentimes, the availability of talented, young players is sparse. Teams tend to hold on to these players as firmly as possible without daring dangle them in trade unless they’re truly desperate. Fortunately for the rest of the league, the Atlanta Hawks may just be frenzied enough to part with one of their best players and the San Antonio Spurs should start making calls ASAP.
According to a recent article by Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, the Hawks have placed 22-year-old John Collins on the trade block after getting off to a hot start to the season. Now in his third year in the league, Collins was suspended 25 games for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug Program after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, as reported by ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
Collins has only appeared in 22 games this season and is off to an incredible start to his young career. In just under 31 minutes per game, the 6-foot-9 athletic powerhouse is averaging 19 points 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest while hitting 54.9 percent of his field-goal attempts and 33.7 percent of his triples.
As the Spurs embark on their annual Rodeo Road Trip, they’ll be faced with trials from some of the best teams in the Western Conference as well as a few difficult, yet more even matchups along the way. This trip could make or break their season, and while there’s still a chance that they return to the playoffs, it may not be worth the first-round exit.
Making a trade before the February 6 trade deadline could help position the Spurs for the future while affording the rest of their squad the opportunity to adjust to what comes next.
With both of their star players, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, entering the final seasons of their respective deals in 2020 (DeRozan could opt out this summer if he so chooses), moving off of marquee talent to acquire someone with Collins’ upside and longevity may be worth the sacrifice of one potential playoff run.
And believe it or not, Collins would already help the Spurs hit the next level in the progression of their young core while fitting with the infrastructure that’s in place.
Next: Fitting Collins into a long line of corporate knowledge
Fitting Collins into a long line of corporate knowledge
Off the bat, there’s a connection to be made between Collins and the Spurs: His alma mater. Collins spent two seasons in Winston-Salem playing for Wake Forest University – the same college that housed San Antonio’s franchise star Tim Duncan for four college seasons in the mid-to-late nineties. Collins also has roots in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Duncan’s home before San Antonio, and he was even sent to live with relatives there for a year in his youth.
Furthermore, Collins would make an incredible fit in the Alamo City because of his own military roots. His mother served in the Air Force and his father served in the Navy, forcing the family to bounce around through the majority of his life before he and his mother settled in Florida during his adolescence.
As an athletic, faceup power forward with a world of bounce and a fiery competitive spirit, one would have to think he’d make a good fit in San Antonio. Though his PED suspension provides a negative connotation to his name, Collins is extremely well-spoken and addressed the matter in a way that dictates careful understanding and respect for the rules.
“I have always been incredibly careful about what I put in my body, but I took a supplement, which, unbeknownst to me, had been contaminated with an illegal component. I plan to appeal my suspension in arbitration so I can get back on the court as soon as possible and continue to contribute to our 2019-20 campaign.”
Being a San Antonio Spur requires a lot from a player, but some of the most important qualities are accountability, hard work and determination. The thrilling, young big man checks off all of those boxes and more while providing a steady workload and firm foundation to lean on.
Of all of the players that the Spurs could push to trade for at the deadline, Collins is easily one of the best fits from a cultural standpoint.
Next: How does Collins’ game propel the Spurs forward?
How does Collins’ game propel the Spurs forward?
Being 10th in the NBA in rebounds per game would give the allusion that San Antonio is adept at getting after the offensive glass, but that number is swayed by their 36.4 defensive boards per game—which is ranked sixth amongst their competition. San Antonio’s work on the offensive glass has been minimal, ranking just 26th out of 30 teams in that category.
Collins would certainly help remedy that issue, especially after spending some time working with Duncan and the rest of the Spurs’ coaching and development staff. In his last 12 games, Collins is averaging nearly three offensive rebounds per game en route to an 11 board per night stretch. Using his strong frame and incredible leaping ability, Collins is already one of the game’s most proficient players on the glass.
That’s not the only place where Collins can help out, because his three-point stroke is acceptable and the Spurs could help put him in a position to hit more of them. He only has four attempts on left corner triples this year, but he’s hit two of them, and his percentage from above the break is at 35.1 percent.
— Stadium Astro (@stadiumastro) January 27, 2020
Working with legendary shooting coach Chip Engelland and the rest of the team will certainly help him improve in that category, especially after locking himself in the gym and working with NBA legend Vince Carter to work on his long-ball this summer. He’s also an adept mid-range jump shooter, making 56.3 percent of his jumpers from between 16 and 24 feet this season.
Having someone who can space the floor, attack the glass, and get a bucket inside is phenomenal for a Spurs team clawing at the playoffs. He’d make a great pick-and-roll partner for the young guards, averaging 1.21 points per possession while averaging the third-most possessions from that set in the league this season. He has a soft touch near the basket and knows when to balance that with his explosions to the rim.
Collins is the ideal modern power forward and is under contract through next season before hitting restricted free agency in 2020. If San Antonio could make a move to bring him in now, and get him acclimated to the team this season, they could sign him to a long-term contract before his pricetag skyrockets as he makes All-Star consideration.
Yes, I’m that confident that Collins will develop into an All-Star in the course of his career. He’s that good.
Next: Making a trade to appease both parties
Making a trade to appease both parties
This is where things get tricky because the Spurs are going to have to take back some bad contracts if they want to pull this thing off. Rumor has it that Atlanta wants a more traditional center to pair with their star guard, Trae Young, and the Spurs could provide that for them with a bit of a caveat.
Nothing screams “traditional center” like Jakob Pöltl, who the Hawks were linked to earlier in the season. He’s a rim-runner, rebounder, shot-blocker and capable screen-setter to place down low for the Hawks, but it’ll probably take more than that to get Collins back in a deal.
An exact salary match would force the Spurs into trading three players for two, sending Poeltl, shooting guard Bryn Forbes and forward Rudy Gay to Atlanta for Collins and the expiring deal of hybrid guard/forward Evan Turner. This is the best-case scenario for the Spurs, as it allows them to keep their two stars and young guards while adding an excellent piece and some expiring salary to spend elsewhere this offseason.
Atlanta gets its traditional center to help Trae out and lock down the paint while adding two veterans with playoff experience on feasible contracts to flesh out the contract. Gay would make a great mentor to Atlanta’s young wings in De’Andre Hunter and Cameron Reddish while providing a scoring punch off the pine.
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It’s also wholly possible that the Hawks want a marquee talent in return for their second-best player, in which case one of DeRozan or Aldridge would have to go. In my opinion, it’d be worth it to move off of their deals for the promise of one and a half years of Collins, plus the ability to match any deal after that, as opposed to keeping two aging veteran stars who no longer fit the team’s timeline.
Assuming they’d prefer to get either Aldridge or DeRozan plus Poeltl, I’d suggest taking back a haul of Collins, Turner’s expiring and one of Reddish, Hunter, Kevin Huerter, Jabari Parker, Bruno Fernando or Damian Jones. The point being, they get someone else back to levy the loss of star talent and a rising star in Poeltl.
Since Atlanta still has a decent portion of its cap space to work with, there are lots of possibilities to get a deal done which works in the favor of the Spurs if they play their cards right.
The possibility of the Spurs making a trade can be a little farfetched, but they’re also known to take advantage of their opportunities when they see fit and landing Collins would set a firm timeline of what’s to come in this newest iteration of San Antonio Spurs basketball.