Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins spoke with the media (via Zoom) for a 2019-20 exit interview on Friday afternoon, and many topics were touched on. The most important one — and the topic at the forefront for a lot of observers — is that Collins is now officially only one season from being a restricted free agent.
With that in mind, the soon-to-be fourth-year forward was asked about the possibility of getting a contract extension done this summer.
“I hope so,” Collins said. “I feel like we’ve definitely been in the best of spirits in talks, so I’m hoping we can. It’s not really in my control when things are supposed to start, but I am in good hopes and good spirits that we can get it done.”
When asked about the possibility of receiving a max contract extension, Collins was candid in his response.
“I just feel like the work I put in speaks for itself. The other players who are doing what I’m doing are in contention for those things. It’s something hopefully we can come to an agreement to this summer because I feel like I’m definitely putting in a lot of work, showing my value, my worth,” Collins continued. “My competitive spirit, my willingness to be with the organization, my leadership skills. Hopefully all of that pays off in the end and we can come to an agreement. I want to be a Hawk and hopefully sign that deal here.”
When asked about getting a deal done this summer or when he becomes a free agent in 2021, Collins also stated he would rather get the deal done “sooner than later.”
“Regardless if everything doesn’t go exactly how I wanted, business is business, things happen, negotiations and so forth, but for me, always sooner rather than later,” Collins added. “I would always want to get it done now than later... security-wise and going forth I could say a million reasons why I want to get it done now... so, sooner. This summer.”
Collins served a 25-game suspension early in the 2019-20 season for a violation of the NBA’s Anti-Drug Program after testing positive for a growth hormone. Upon returning from suspension, Collins was one the most effective big men in the league, and probably the most efficient high-volume scorer in the NBA.
When prompted about his suspension, Collins stated, “I’m not here to change people’s mind (about that)... Just keep it moving. Hopefully, 10 years down the line, look up and I’m averaging the same numbers.”
Collins finished the season with career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, 3PT%, 3PA (per game), FG% and FT%. Collins is the only player in the league to average 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 1.5+ blocks this season. While others may have some games to play, it seems somewhat unlikely that any player could move into that group with only a few more games regular season games, at most.
“I would say consistency, being consistent in what I do and finalizing that I feel like is the biggest stride I made,” Collins said of his performance this season. “Going forward, playmaking is going to be the next biggest thing. Obviously, I can always get better on defense, improve intensity, my willingness to be locked in and stay in a stance. All of that stuff is great, but I feel like playmaking, not only to create shots for myself but to create shots for others benefits everybody.”
Collins also spoke about Clint Capela, whom the Hawks traded for in February, but have yet to deploy due to an injury that Capela brought to Atlanta from Houston.
“I definitely feel like having Clint there to be true 5 puts me back in my position and allows things to run smoother,” Collins said.
Collins also stated, with a smile, that he plans to sharpen his lob passing skills with another leaper now in the fold offensively.
Set to turn 23 years old in September, Collins is heading into a crucial fourth season. On the team side, the Hawks will be prompted to make a decision of guaranteeing him up to nine figures this summer, or weighing their contractual options during the 2021 offseason.
If the team decides it would be unwise to make that kind of financial commitment to Collins in an overall sense, a trade could make sense. With restricted free agency a year away, though, the Hawks may simply choose to ride out this season and see what kind of offer sheets are thrown at Collins next summer/fall, especially when considering the additional salary cap flexibility that his relatively low salary cap hold would present in 2021.