Jan 17, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) grabs a rebound as San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) looks on in the first half at AT&T Center. (Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports)
The San Antonio Spurs need to take a long look at big man John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks, whose fit with his team may dwindle with Capela returning.
When the Atlanta Hawks traded for Houston Rockets center Clint Capela, they sent a message saying power forward John Collins wasn’t good enough as the No. 2 option for Trae Young. They wanted someone more powerful and traditional with the size to bang bodies with other elite bigs in the Eastern Conference. This is where the San Antonio Spurs need to insert themselves into the equation.
In an offseason like no other, trades are the best way for a team to make a competitive impact without proper cap space to boast. If the San Antonio Spurs want to get the most of their assets and leave their mark on the upcoming 2020-21 NBA season, trading for an impactful player like Collins is the way to do it.
JOHN COLLINS ? pic.twitter.com/XrhcPQ1Q6p
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 13, 2020
A modern, skilled power forward who can slide down to the five, Collins has what it takes to compete at a high level in this league. His scoring output has increased during each of his three years in the league, hitting 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game through 41 games of a shortened season. Beyond that, Collins spent much of the season suspended for violating the NBA’s drug policies by accidentally taking PEDs.
Collins’ value may be lower than ever despite being one of the best players on his team and a fantastic offensive fit with Young. That team is shifting into a win-now mindset, meaning they’ll likely seek better veteran talent to complement the firepower the squad currently possesses. There are a few ways the San Antonio Spurs could entice Atlanta into shipping Collins over.
Next: Why would the Hawks trade Collins?
Mar 6, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) reaches for a rebound against the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter at State Farm Arena. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
The San Antonio Spurs’ trade attempts wouldn’t be unsubstantiated.
In an article just before the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline, Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher noted that Collins was amongst the young bigs being dangled on the trade market. This was just weeks after Collins resumed playing after his suspension and looked keen on the offensive end. Seeking an extension this offseason, Collins is expected to seek upwards of $20 million per year, per Kevin O’Conner.
Collins isn’t an All-Star and hasn’t come particularly close up to this point in his career. If Atlanta wants to build around Young and already has a big they believe in with Capela, they could certainly look to capitalize on Collins’ loaded stat-line in the 2019-20 season. However, playing for the San Antonio Spurs on a newly extended contract could set Collins up for a bright future.
The centerpieces of the Spurs’ young core are mostly perimeter-oriented, so getting a versatile, modern big on the roster would do dividends for them. After missing the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years, the Spurs are forced to decide between prioritizing their youth or the veterans on the roster.
Collins, who played at Tim Duncan’s alma matter of Wake Forest University, would benefit greatly from the development staff and instruction provided in San Antonio. One of the best-run organizations in professional sports, the Spurs will do everything in their power to set Collins on a path for success.
The next question is how much do they need to give up?
Next: Trade possibilities
What do the San Antonio Spurs need to trade for John Collins?
There are many routes with which the San Antonio Spurs could trade for Collins, but the first and most obvious is a swap of expiring players. Each entering the final year of their respective deals, this is a rare occasion where trading DeRozan one-for-one makes sense for both parties.
Atlanta needs someone to take some pressure off of Trae Young and add some size to the lineup. He’ll be excellent for Capela, who’ll rotate near the rim and operate as a roll-man for DeRozan in many cases, drawing coverage to the paint for drive-and-kick opportunities. Young is incredible with the ball in his hands, but you need more than one player to dominate halfcourt offense to be a productive NBA team and DeRozan could be that for Young.
Meanwhile, the Spurs and Collins’ representatives could work out a contract extension that’s amicable for each party or simply allow the negotiation to trend into the 2021 offseason. It’d be unsurprising to see Collins become a true free agent in a loaded 2021 free-agent class, but there are many bigger names to take care of before getting to his. There’s a decent chance he’s not going to receive anything close to the money he aspires to make unless he signs a fair extension now.
Another possibility is sending Trey Lyles and the No. 11 pick to Atlanta for Collins and the 50th pick in the draft. It sacrifices the Spurs’ highest pick in 2 decades, but the chances of that hitting aren’t as high as the chances of Collins becoming a stud in San Antonio. Likewise, the Spurs could send veteran depth and expiring contracts to Atlanta with Rudy Gay, Patty Mills and the 41st pick for Collins in a move that extends financial flexibility to Atlanta through next season.
Any number of combinations between these two parties could make for a beneficial trade.
Next: Why does Collins make sense for the Spurs?
Mar 6, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) shoots against the San Antonio Spurs in the first quarter at State Farm Arena. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
John Collins and the San Antonio Spurs are a tremendous fit.
There are dozens of reasons to like Collins in San Antonio beginning with his incredible knack for producing in pick-and-roll situations. He’s excellent at reading the floor and finding creative lanes to the basket off of screens for lob dunks, layups or putbacks. Of the 15 players who average at least three possessions as a roll-man per game, Collins ranks the highest with 1.31 points per possession. This puts him in the 82nd percentile above Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert in that category.
John Collins soars and slams. pic.twitter.com/iywl522Urf
— NBA (@NBA) February 6, 2020
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Collins is adept at stepping outside and spotting up for 3-pointers as well, hitting 40.1 percent of 3.6 3-point attempts per contest last season. The 6-foot-9 forward knocked down 57-of-134 triples on the year, which comes in at 42.5 percent. Whether he’s setting up off the ball, rotating to the perimeter after setting a screen, or occasionally pulling up, Collins has worked hard to establish that jumper and these days, it’d make a perfect fit for the Spurs’ guards.
Particularly, Dejounte Murray and Collins would be a tremendous duo. They’re each fantastic on the fastbreak with Collins ranking in the 95th percentile in transition scoring. Having each other to lean on would make the job a lot easier — Especially with the good looks afforded to each side by the flow of Gregg Popovich’s offensive system.
Defensively, Collins would be an excellent secondary rim protector who’s light on his feet. That verticality can be harnessed to help him become a reliable defender both at the basket and away from it. Nothing comes easily, but with hard work and dedication, Collins can be the next great Spurs big if the team were to trade for him.
Oh yeah, and did we mention he’s one of the five-to-10 best in-game dunkers in basketball?