John Collins To Celtics? Hawks Star Floated As Potential Trade Target

The Atlanta forward ultimately might be an imperfect fit for Boston


Jun 23, 2022

The extent of the Celtics’ offseason heavy lifting will depend on whether president of basketball operations Brad Stevens believes Boston can return to the NBA Finals with its current core.

The C’s simply might work in the margins, augmenting their existing roster rather than making wholesale changes, and that ultimately could lead to a relatively uneventful summer as the defending Eastern Conference champions prepare to run it back for the 2022-23 season.

That said, there are a few potential trade targets who would move the needle. And the list includes Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, a perennial double-double threat who’s been mentioned in rumors ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft.

So, could the Celtics realistically pursue Collins?

The Athletic’s Zach Harper floated the idea Wednesday, although upon further examination, it’s not exactly the easiest match.

“Al Horford is 36 years old, and he has one more year on his deal, which is non-guaranteed,” Harper wrote. “As great as he was for them in the postseason, the Celtics shouldn’t plan on him being a viable part of this rotation for the long term. Collins is only 24 years old, and putting him with Robert Williams III and Jayson Tatum in the frontcourt would give the Celtics a young, dynamic trio up front. The problem is … who do you give up for Collins in this scenario?”

The Celtics presumably would welcome the opportunity to add a talented player like Collins, who turns 25 in September and is entering his sixth NBA season. He just averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in 54 games in 2021-22, numbers basically in line with his career norm. The 6-foot-9 Wake Forest product, in theory, could log minutes at power forward or at center, depending on Boston’s rotations.

But in addition to potentially disrupting the Celtics’ playoff mojo by suddenly installing a rather significant piece, it’s hard to build a viable trade package. Unless Boston looks to capitalize on Atlanta’s previous rumored interest in Marcus Smart or, even less likely, includes Jaylen Brown.

Obviously, neither scenario is ideal from the Celtics’ standpoint, especially the latter framework, which Harper acknowledged Wednesday in kicking around a hypothetical Collins-to-Boston trade.

“Would Jaylen Brown be in the mix here? This is where it gets quite complicated,” Harper wrote. “Brown is a far better player than Collins is. Unless the Celtics have a guarantee at the point guard position that moves Marcus Smart to the two, finding some version of a Collins-for-Brown swap doesn’t make a lot of sense. Brown is from Georgia, so it would be a nice homecoming for him. My guess is Boston’s to-do list doesn’t have ‘get Brown back home’ as a high priority. The Celtics were two wins away from a championship, and tinkering is a better operation here than an overhaul.”

To be clear, Collins is a very good player. He might even be a decent fit for the Celtics if they were able to cobble together a package that didn’t involve any core players, leaned heavily on picks/ancillary pieces and took advantage of Boston’s traded player exceptions (TPEs).

Atlanta probably can find a more enticing alternative elsewhere, though, and thus Boston shouldn’t become too fixated on chasing Collins as they weigh the risks and rewards of a shakeup versus mostly staying the course after falling two wins shy of Banner 18.

Thumbnail photo via Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports Images
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