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Travis Schlenk on adding Lou Williams, trading Rajon Rondo and keeping John Collins

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the NBA trade deadline this week, there was much speculation around the Atlanta Hawks, mostly surrounding fourth-year big man John Collins. There was some buzz about Cam Reddish being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans for Lonzo Ball, and some noise around Bogdan Bogdanovic as well, but the move that wound up actually happening centered on a pair of veteran guards.

The Hawks have notoriously brought back Lou Williams, along with two future second-round picks and cash considerations, in exchange for Rajon Rondo, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Hawks President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk spoke on the move earlier this afternoon:

“We certainly didn’t go into the week with plans of trading Rondo,” Schlenk said. “But as dialogues took place throughout the course of the week, we felt like we were getting a pretty good deal there.”

Rondo has another year on his contract (he will be owed $7.5 million next season), while Williams’ deal is expiring at the end of the season.

“We’re certainly appreciative of everything Rondo gave us while he was here and we were certainly comfortable moving forward with him,” Schlenk continued. “But, being able to pick up a couple future draft picks and get a player back of the quality that we were able to in Lou, it just kind of made sense for us.”

The move comes with the Hawks looking for a scoring boost on the second unit, an area Rondo was unable to provide much in. At this point in his career, Rondo is very much a facilitator (as he always was) with little to nothing to offer as a scorer (or a defender, for the most part).

“One of the things we’re all aware of is when Trae’s gone to the bench we’ve struggled a little offensively,” said Schlenk. “The hope is, bringing in Williams, as everyone knows, he’s one of if not the best bench scorer in the history of the league, three-time six man of the year. So, we felt like that addressed one of the things we saw we could fix moving forward, and the icing on the cake was the draft picks.”

Schlenk was asked if the recent surge of winning had an impact on what they were looking to do at the deadline, and offered a logical response.

“We didn’t really want to go in there and mess things up,” noted Schlenk. “Obviously the team’s getting healthy, been playing better. Sometimes the best moves you make are the ones you don’t do.”

Inevitably, the subject of Collins came up, and leader of the Hawks’ front office downplayed the mass rumors and speculation surrounding the Hawks power forward, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

“There’s been a ton of speculation out there all along about John since the negotiations didn't get finalized last year on his extension, but we’ve been steadfast that we view John as a big part of our franchise,” Schlenk remarked. “Like all of our players, we do our due diligence to see what their value is, but I don’t think you’ve ever heard myself or anyone else in the Hawks organization say that we don’t place great value on John. We do. We’ve never had any serious conversations with any team about moving him this year.”

The last part of that is especially noteworthy, as Schlenk is suggesting that the Hawks have not had “serious” conversations around Collins at any point this year. There was a lot of buzz around Collins being moved on the night of the 2020 NBA Draft, but since then, most of the buzz has been more speculation.

All things considered, it feels like Atlanta did a nice job at the trade deadline this time around. Not selling Collins for pennies on the dollar is the headline, and getting rid of Rondo, who on the court was not an effective player for the most part, while picking up future assets and a better player in Lou Williams, feels like an overwhelmingly successful deal.

Another factor, one that Schlenk downplayed, is clearing Rondo’s $7.5 million for next season. The Hawks will now be able to stay under the luxury tax even if they give Collins a max contract, which may become notable if he receives a max offer from another team in restricted free agency.

Williams should join the team before the end of the road trip, per Schlenk, and slot into the second unit, where he has made himself at home for much of his career. Williams won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 2015, 2018 and 2019.

The Hawks play the Golden State Warriors this evening before traveling to Denver for a matchup with the Nuggets on Sunday. The trip concludes with games next week in San Antonio, Phoenix and New Orleans.