The Atlanta Hawks have had a good start to the 2022-23 season, jumping out to a 12-10 start to sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference currently. The Hawks are still figuring some things out when it comes to their new and improved roster, but over the course of an 82-game season, they should be able to develop more consistency.
The main reason for hope is that the Hawks star backcourt duo of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are playing extremely well alongside each other. Both have remained strong scorers, with Murray’s ability to do a little bit of everything making him a key operator of the Hawks offense in the early going.
Despite that, the Hawks haven’t exactly been perfect to start the season, and it’s clear their roster still needs some work. Let’s take a look at a player who absolutely should be dealt by Atlanta if they want to win this season, and see why that’s the case and what the potential return for this player could end up being.
Hawks player who must be traded: John Collins
John Collins always seems to somehow find his way involved in trade rumors, and once again, that has happened this season. Collins’ name has already begun to pop up as a potential trade target for teams across the league, and the Hawks are even fielding trade offers for Collins early on in the season.
Collins was Young’s running mate on offense prior to Murray’s arrival this past offseason, and found himself largely boxed out of Atlanta’s offense as a result. It’s not as if Collins is playing badly, but it’s clear he can do a lot more than what the Hawks are allowing him to do right now, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that a trade would make sense for both parties here.
There are some areas where Collins has been disappointing early on in the season, though. His per game numbers are all down (12.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.3 APG) despite the fact that he’s playing more than he was last season. Collins is shooting the ball way less than we are accustomed to seeing him shoot too, and his efficiency from the field (48.4 FG%, 21.9 3P%) has suffered as a result.
Prior to this season, Collins had turned himself into an explosive high-flier on offense who has become a passable three-point shooter. But Collins has struggled mightily from behind the arc early on, and he isn’t finding ways to get involved in the offense anymore. Young and Murray obviously are going to dominate things offensively, but Collins is a talented player who needs to get shots too.
Right now, it seems like there are simply too many mouths to feed for the Hawks on offense. De’Andre Hunter and Clint Capela both command shots on offense as well, and things will get even more crowded when Bogdan Bogdanovic returns from injury at some point in the future. There are simply too many players who are deserving of shots, and Collins is probably the most enticing trade candidate of them all.
There have been a couple of teams interested in Collins early on, which makes sense considering how talented he is, but his big five-year, $125 million contract is something that could dissuade teams from moving for him. Collins only signed that deal during the 2021 offseason, showing how the Hawks, despite signing him to a long-term deal, have never been fully committed to him.
Moving Collins sooner rather than later would help the Hawks build up their roster immediately, which may be necessary given how competitive the Eastern Conference is shaping up to be this season. Atlanta is sitting with an OK record at 12-10, but right now, they appear to be way behind the likes of the top teams in the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
Atlanta picked up Murray this offseason with the intent that they would be contending immediately. It may seem counterintuitive to trade away one of their best players, but the Hawks can improve other parts of their roster by moving Collins. Maybe picking up Jae Crowder off the Phoenix Suns to improve their defense could be something that interests them.
Right now, the Hawks aren’t going to win anything, and that likely won’t change unless Collins is dealt away and a big piece or two is brought back. Collins’ value may not be what it once was, but considering his potential impact, and the fact that he’s still only 25 years old, there will be teams interested in him. And rather than wait for other teams to make moves, the Hawks need to make the first move and unload Collins while they can.