At the time of writing, the Atlanta Hawks are the definition of a bang average team. After their resounding win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night that respawned a hilarious meme, the Hawks are now 26-26, one of only two teams in the NBA with as many wins as losses.
An easy scapegoat for the Hawks’ seeming inability to escape mediocrity is Dejounte Murray; Murray’s price in the trade that brought him to Atlanta certainly raised expectations for what he would bring to the table. But for the most part, Murray has done everything he could as advertised.
In fact, the Hawks’ preferred starting five of Trae Young, Murray, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, and Clint Capela are demolishing their opponents. That five-man lineup, which has played the six most minutes out of all five-man combinations in the NBA this season, has posted an incredible +13.9 net rating. It goes without saying that that is an incredible figure.
It’s the other areas of the Hawks squad that needs reinforcements.
In particular, the Hawks’ wing depth behind De’Andre Hunter is hilariously thin. Scratch that – the Hawks, as a whole, don’t have a particularly strong bench (aside from arguably the best backup center in the NBA in Onyeka Okongwu). Moreover, AJ Griffin, despite showing promise, has not been able to earn the coaching staff’s trust. Thus, it’s not a surprise to see them hunt for potential upgrades as the NBA Trade Deadline inches closer and closer.
Even then, the Hawks must proceed with plenty of caution. They traded away two of their first-rounders (along with an option to swap picks) to the San Antonio Spurs for Murray, and they don’t have plenty of young prospects to dangle. Thus, they should be careful in how they handle their remaining valuable trade assets and ensure that they’re able to get the most bang out of their limited buck lest they regret it.
Hawks will regret trading away John Collins for spare parts
There is no secret that the Hawks want to trade away John Collins. It’s not like such a decision is daft; it’s clear that Collins is no longer the player he was when he broke out three seasons ago, and his outside shot – a key to his offensive versatility – appears to be rather broken at the moment.
Collins’ broken shot may have come as a result of his nasty finger injuries over the years; even then, his situation with the Hawks – increasing offensive marginalization, inability to function as the lone rim-runner given Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu’s presence – makes a turnaround for him an unlikely outcome.
Thus, it is definitely a good idea for both the Hawks and John Collins if they decide to part ways via trade before the 2023 NBA trade deadline.
However, the Hawks must ask themselves: is it really worth ridding themselves of Collins to acquire a quick fix around Trae Young and Dejounte Murray? Plus, Collins, despite his shooting struggles, is part of the Hawks’ deadly five-man unit, so it may not be the worst idea to keep him around.
Moreover, John Collins represents the Hawks’ most reasonable avenue to pursue upgrades around the roster, given their lack of quality pieces apart from their core (Young, Murray, Capela, Hunter, Okongwu, Griffin). So if they decide to sell low on him, the Hawks may end up further handicapping themselves.
If the Hawks were to trade Collins away, they must make sure that the piece(s) they get fit their timeline like a glove (not too old, not too young), all the while being able to contribute immediately to help them in the stretch run.
Getting Jae Crowder, like the Hawks have reportedly expressed interest in, may be a good move in a vacuum, but if they were to give up Collins for him, then that would not make sense, draft pick compensation notwithstanding. Crowder is already 32, he will enter free agency in a few months’ time, and it’s rather unclear what he could still bring to the table given his inactivity for the season.
Meanwhile, the Pacers’ potential trade package for Collins should not interest them in the slightest either. Betting on Chris Duarte or Jalen Smith to turn things around could work out, but the Hawks don’t particularly have the luxury of waiting.
Buddy Hield could be an enticing piece, but it’s unclear whether the Hawks would be interested in swapping Collins out for Hield. Hield should improve one of the worst-shooting teams in the league, but he definitely makes the Hawks worse defensively.
If anything, the Hawks should focus on nabbing Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt from the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have expressed interest in such a deal, only if the Hawks add a future first-rounder. If that’s what it comes to, then that could be the best offer on the table for Collins.
Beasley helps fix the Hawks’ three-point shooting woes, while Vanderbilt could be a swiss-army knife on defense who could replace Collins’ lob threat and defensive versatility, particularly on the perimeter, at the four.
At the end of the day, the Hawks front office, led by new GM Landry Fields, should make sure that they cash-in properly on one of their remaining valuable assets.