Boston Celtics Rumors: Could John Collins be the C’s top trade target?

John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

The longer the Boston Celtics continue to play mediocre basketball, the more likely a big move will be made at the NBA Trade Deadline. Their most recent four game stretch of basketball, in which they went 2-2, pretty much summarizes their season to this point.

The Celtics took down the New Orleans Pelicans thanks to a strong second half performance, and they got a 51 point outing from Jayson Tatum to lead them past the Washington Wizards.

But in between those two wins came a pair of frustrating losses at the hands of the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers. The loss to the depleted Trail Blazers was particularly hard to watch, as the Boston managed to throw away yet another game thanks to their fourth quarter struggles.

Yet after yesterday afternoon’s 30 point win over the Wizards, the Boston Celtics finds themselves right back at the .500 mark with a 24-24 record. They have provided some reasons for hope yet again, but their season long inconsistencies to this point have increased the likelihood that a big move will get made between now and February 10th.

The good news is that there figures to be a lot of premium talent on the market as the deadline rolls closer. Despite the middle pack of teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference being very tight, teams are starting to figure out whether they are going to be buyers or sellers at the deadline. One team that is looking more and more like a seller is the Atlanta Hawks, and that might result in John Collins, a top Celtics target, becoming available at the deadline.

John Collins could be the third star the Boston Celtics have been looking for

Collins was on the Celtics’ radar this time last year as well. He was in the final year of his rookie deal, and with the Hawks sitting at the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference, it seemed like he could be set to get moved at the deadline. But Atlanta stood pat, made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, and got Collins to sign a 5 year, $125 million contract over the offseason.

Everything seemed to be looking up for the Hawks, but they have struggled for much of the season, and their 21-25 record wouldn’t even have them making the Play-In Tournament at this point. On top of that, Collins has reportedly been upset with his role in Atlanta, cranking up speculation that the Hawks could look to move him at the deadline once again.

If Collins becomes up for grabs, the Boston Celtics would be wise to try to make a move for the talented big man. He fits the timeline of Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and would complement their playstyle quite well. He may be a pricy purchase, but it would be well worth the cost.

Collins is one of the most versatile offensive big men in the game. He’s a skilled finisher at the rim, and one of the most ferocious in the dunkers in the league as well. But he also has a solid outside shot to go along with it, and his 42.6 three point percentage this season is the highest of his career. Collins has hovered right around the 40 percent mark from behind the arc for three seasons now, and his three point shooting skills would be a welcome sight for Boston.

Collins isn’t the greatest defender in the league, but that’s not to say he can’t hold his own. Assuming he wouldn’t be given up in this deal, Rob Williams would be a solid complement to Collins in a potential double-big lineup. Williams is a menace in the paint, while Collins has the speed to stick with perimeter guys better than Williams.

The issue may be the Hawks asking price in this scenario. Collins is a very good player, and he is only 24 years old. He’s under team control for what amounts to four and a half seasons at this stage, and his contract is fairly priced considering his production. The Hawks are going to want proper compensation from their star forward if they end up moving him, and rightfully so.

A couple days ago, I previewed a potential trade with the Hawks involving Marcus Smart and Bogdan Bogdanovic. I figured I would use that deal as a building block for a potential trade for Collins, and add some extra pieces onto the deal.

Horford and Smart are the two non-negotiables Boston would have to include in this deal due to salary matching purposes, but pretty much everything else is up for discussion. Any one of Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, or Aaron Nesmith could be tacked on here depending on what Atlanta is looking for, but I went with Langford due to his stock rising from his recent play. Atlanta may want another pick or two as well, but I wouldn’t necessarily mortgage the future for this deal.

The Hawks would improve their defense, which has been awful this season, by adding Horford, Smart, and one of the aforementioned prospects. Horford has definitely begun to decline, but his salary matches Collins, and since his salary for next season is only partially guaranteed, that makes him an enticing asset down the line if things don’t work out. Atlanta has also expressed interest in Smart recently, and would shore up their perimeter defense by bringing him aboard.

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The Celtics would add a pair of skilled offensive players, while the Hawks shore up their defense. The longer Boston hovers around .500, and the longer Atlanta continues losing games, the more likely this deal would become. The Boston Celtics have looked for ways to give Tatum and Brown more help, and pulling off this sort of move with Atlanta would give them the sort of help they need.