For months, John Collins’ next contract has been a prominent topic of conversation surrounding the Atlanta Hawks. The 23-year-old big man will be a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 season after Collins and the Hawks failed to come together on a rookie-scale contract extension. From there, multiple reports indicate that the Hawks offered Collins an extension worth in excess of $90 million, seemingly pointing to a hefty ask from Collins and his representation.
After 24 games, the Hawks sit at 11-13 amid myriad injury issues up and down the roster. Collins has been key to Atlanta staying afloat in the playoff mix, however, and Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote Friday that the Hawks are in an interesting position as a result.
The John Collins situation in Atlanta will be worth watching as the deadline nears.
Despite the fact that he didn’t come to terms on an extension in the brief offseason, and that so many rival executives believe his NBA future will eventually be elsewhere as a result, there’s a complicating element that is coming into play: He’s a pivotal part of their team right now. And considering the widely-known reality that the playoffs are a massive priority for owner Tony Ressler & Co., that makes the prospect of trading Collins quite tricky.
No matter how much interest there might be.
Later in the piece, Amick reveals perhaps the most interesting nugget of information.
After pointing out Collins’ impressive statistical production, he shares, citing sources, that “the Hawks have shown a willingness to listen to offers for Collins.” At the same time, Amick points out that “even if there was a quality deal to be had that added future assets, his production in the present is so crucial that it appears unlikely that he’ll be on the move.”
In the grand scheme, absolutely none of this is surprising, especially when considering the previous dynamics within the two sides. In the piece, Amick goes as far as to say Collins “sees himself as a max player and the Hawks don’t,” which is a leap that may be sourced, but also could be a bit of an overstatement. Regardless, the extension not getting done points to a potential divide in how the team views Collins and the kind of asking price coming from his representation.
It is worth noting, however, that the negotiation of a contract extension, especially while the player is on a rookie-scale contract, is much different than when a player is on the open market. In fact, many teams will avoid signing rookie extensions, even when expressing the intent to match any reasonable offer sheet the following summer.
Because the Hawks will have match rights on Collins this offseason, the baseline assumption should be a long-term partnership between player and team. Still, it shouldn’t be seen as terribly jarring to hear reports of the Hawks being willing to listen on Collins, all while crucially pointing out that “listening” isn’t the same as actively shopping a player on the trade market.
The Hawks are at their best when John Collins is on the floor and, as Amick notes, Atlanta is perceived to be heavily invested in making the playoffs this season. The best way for the team to reach their 2020-21 goals is to deploy Collins on a nightly basis, and the most likely scenario is still for that to transpire.