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Hawks mailbag: Latest on John Collins; Deandre Ayton and Rudy Gobert rumors

I know you’re not here to read this intro. We have just over 24 hours to go before the draft and rumors are swirling heavily around the Hawks. It’s no surprise that Atlanta is mentioned consistently as a team looking to make moves because of how disappointing they were this season.

I expect the Hawks to explore all kinds of options to upgrade their roster, so let’s just get straight to all of your questions surrounding the organization.

(Editor’s note: Questions have been lightly edited for clarity.)

Is there a player in this draft that’s really worth trading John Collins? I’ve seen a lot of Twitter trades for the No. 4 or even No. 7 picks, which really just doesn’t make sense to me unless you’re shedding salary. Even super “high floor/immediate impact” No. 4 picks don’t always live up to that billing (lookin’ at you, Dre). Why risk JC for a very likely downgrade? — Mike R. 

It depends on how you’re evaluating such a move. If the Hawks decided to trade Collins for a lottery pick, they would not be better next season for doing so. They might eventually be better in the future, but it’s highly unlikely they would be better off next season with a rookie in Collins’ place.

Logically, trading Collins for a lottery pick goes against everything Tony Ressler, Travis Schlenk and Landry Fields have publicly said — the Hawks want to be better next season. Trading Collins for a pick is the opposite of what they want to accomplish next season. I don’t think a trade where the Hawks move Collins for No. 4 or No. 7 with no player in return is an option for them, frankly. It’s possible they do trade up but they’ve got to get something in return that helps them next season. To that point, a trade with Portland likely won’t include Josh Hart because I’ve heard the Blazers want to keep him long-term. Outside of Hart and Damian Lillard, who they won’t move, the Blazers don’t have anyone on their roster of particular value.

I have heard that if the Hawks do trade up, they would be more keen to trade future picks instead of dumping Collins for a project. That’s not to say he wouldn’t be in a trade to move up, but it won’t be for a deal that doesn’t make them better this coming season.

Can John Collins become our version of Chris Bosh as the third-best player on a championship team who excels at spacing the floor, catching lobs, punishing mismatches, and bringing accountability and leadership? I think he is a winning player who has improved every season who I would be reticent to trade. — Garrett L. 

I think he’d be an excellent No. 3 option, but there were some nights the Hawks were using him as the fourth or even fifth option on the floor. I’ve never understood why the Hawks don’t feature him more often with as efficient as he is. He’s a good player and yet they don’t treat him as such some nights.

There are some conflicting points with what Collins wants and what the Hawks want out of him. Collins has never wavered publicly or privately about wanting to be a Hawk. Never. Anything else you read stating otherwise is false. There are some close to Collins who think he would be better off elsewhere with a bigger role. But Collins himself has always said he wants to be in Atlanta.

There are multiple teams out there who want Collins, but the Hawks are making it clear behind the scenes that they’re not trading him for anything that doesn’t make them better next season and for the future.

We all know about the Hawks rumors to trade with Portland and get to No. 7, but have they engaged in talks with the Kings? Many see this as a four-player class and to be able to get Jaden Ivey as a long-term running mate with Trae feels like a great outcome for a JC trade. — Amanpreet S. 

Yes, I’ve been told they’ve engaged with the Kings on deals regarding the fourth pick and deals not involving the pick at all. To be clear: I do not expect Collins to be in a deal for the fourth pick if the Hawks aren’t getting a player in return who could help them this coming season. Maybe the thinking will change in the next 24 hours and talks will go all the way up to when the Kings are on the clock, but as of now, I’m not expecting a deal with the Kings to transpire.

I’ve heard Ivey would be the target at No. 4 if they were to trade with the Kings, which, again, doesn’t seem likely right now. I think Ivey has star potential with how explosive and athletic he is but I’m honestly unsure of the fit between him and Young. Ivey isn’t the kind of defender I’d personally want next to Young in the backcourt; you’d have to be sure that the other three guys on the floor with them are, at minimum, good defenders.

What is the latest with the trade talks involving John Collins and them moving up in the lottery? Any chance they can get high enough to draft Jaden Ivey? — Reggie M. 

As I just said in my last answer, they’re not moving up right now if it’s Collins straight-up for a pick. They’ve got to get something that will help them be better next season. Any draft pick they choose is likely not making a difference next season.

Odds of Hawks landing Deandre Ayton? Any truth to the rumors? — Moe S.

From talking with people across the league, the sense right now is Ayton will not be back with the Suns next season. If he’s not back with Phoenix, it’s widely expected that the Suns will negotiate a sign-and-trade to extract as much value as they possibly can due to losing one of their best players.

As of now, I’m expecting the Hawks not to be in the mix for Ayton when free agency opens. I’ve heard that Atlanta is one of the teams Ayton would be interested in playing for but there’s no traction right now in terms of the Hawks making a move for the Suns center. Their pursuit will likely be tied to Ayton and his representation taking a non-max deal, which doesn’t seem too likely right now.

The Hawks have multiple players being brought up in trade talks along with having multiple needs (defense, shot-creating, etc.) With the draft coming up and no moves as of now, should the Hawks draft for fit because of potential moves, or simply draft the best players on their board? — Mason S. 

They don’t have enough elite talent on the roster to start drafting for fit. Obviously, there’s no need to draft a guard who could only play point. Outside of that, they should be drafting the best player available on the board, and that’s what they’re going to do.

If the Hawks trade up to get Keegan Murray or Dyson Daniels, do either of those players start next year? — Keith B. 

From what I’ve heard, I don’t think the Hawks would be trading up for Murray. Daniels would be an option at No. 7 but a deal doesn’t seem imminent right now. Because of where either player would be drafted in this scenario, I’m not sure if they would automatically be gifted a starting spot, but a top 10 player would be a significant factor in the rotation.

How does Rudy Gobert and that contract get this team over the hump? Center is a position of strength and OO appears to be a very good modern center. My estimation is that we need a No. 2 scoring option before all else and it would be nice to add some perimeter defense. I fear that not only does Gobert give you neither but that contract essentially locks the roster. — Anthony S. 

A Gobert-Young tandem would be excellent, but it would be strongly dependent on the roster around them. If they still have weak perimeter defenders, they’d be no different than the Jazz — a good regular-season team that has a limited ceiling in the playoffs.

Ultimately, I don’t think a deal is happening for Gobert. The contract is significant and limiting for a team that has several issues to address. If he wasn’t on a supermax deal, I think something could get done but that’s not the reality of the situation.

What exactly could the Hawks possibly want in return from Minnesota for Clint Capela? — Nahshon B. 

If you missed it, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Timberwolves were interested in Capela. That would mean the Wolves likely would have Capela at the five defensively and Karl-Anthony Towns at the four. It certainly would be interesting to watch if it were to happen.

As far as what the Hawks could be interested in if Capela were dealt to Minnesota, realistically, the options are slim. Would a deal for Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt be enough for the Hawks? How about Malik Beasley and Vanderbilt? You’re not getting Towns or Anthony Edwards in a deal for Capela, so don’t ask in the comments. D’Angelo Russell is a fine scorer but he’d be a horrific fit with Trae.

It’s really just Beasley, Beverley and Vanderbilt who I’d be interested in.

How risky do you think the Hawks’ moves should be? For example, Jonathan Isaac (if he’s available) could be a great addition, but who knows what he’ll look like after not playing for two years. I think chasing upside is worth it at this point given the lack of clear routes to getting another star. — Henry H. 

It’s a tough spot because, on one hand, the goal should be to make the roster as good as it possibly can be long-term, but they also want to be better next season. The rumors out there right now involving Collins being included in a deal for a lottery pick don’t make them better next season but maybe it would for the future.

They just need to be smart with the moves they make. They don’t need to blow up the roster but they very clearly do need upgrades because as is, this team isn’t winning a title very soon without significant internal development.

Do you think the Hawks should make a move for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Dejounte Murray? — Peter D. 

I haven’t heard either of them come up in any trade conversations I’ve had as players who could potentially be available. If either of them were to come available, the Hawks should immediately call the Thunder and/or Spurs, respectively, and see what it would take to land them. They’re the kinds of backcourt players who would look ideal next to Trae.

How big of a loss for Atlanta is the departure of Chris Jent? — Ervin O. 

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham hired Jent over the weekend, leaving the Hawks with a vacancy on Nate McMillan’s bench. Jent was McMillan’s lead assistant and the main offensive assistant on the coaching staff. Jent was well-liked by the players and was instrumental in helping Collins turn into as good a shooter as he is now.

Jent was the best coach out of the assistants currently employed by the Hawks, so it’s certainly a notable loss.

How available is a player that really fits our needs … Andrew Wiggins? If the Warriors can’t afford to pay everyone, Gallo’s deal has extra value to them in the short term. Add the pick and another player. Might be Hawks’ best option. — Emmanuel T. 

Wiggins was Golden State’s second-best player in the Finals. I don’t think he’s going anywhere, no matter what the Warriors have to pay to keep the roster together. The Warriors also make a gajillion dollars; I don’t think the tax is something they’re concerned about.

If the De’Andre Hunter extension rumors are true … why? I thought Schlenk wants guys who can dribble, pass and shoot. To compound the problem (hopefully won’t come to fruition) I’ve seen trades that have us ship off JC and CC and shift Hunter to the 4 and have Okongwu at the 5. Who the hell is going to rebound? — Stephen B. 

I would still be surprised if the Hawks and Hunter agreed to an extension that is anything other than team-friendly. Hunter isn’t a max player and he only has a small window of being an excellent player in his three seasons with the Hawks. This isn’t a situation like Trae’s where you knew immediately that he was getting a max. Huerter agreed to a four-year, $65 million extension and that I felt was a fair deal for both sides.

The Hunter we saw at the start of the 2020 season is a $100-plus million player. The Hunter we saw this season is nowhere near that. It’s pretty clear from gathering intel that the Hawks think Hunter is more of the player we saw at the start of the 2020 season rather than this season’s version. I would just be very cautious in locking him into a pricey deal with as underwhelming as he was this season. I’m still not sure what he’s actually good at.

As far as Hunter playing the four and Okongwu at the five, like you, I’d also be concerned with the lack of rebounding. From what we saw this season, I don’t think Hunter is anything other than a three on both ends of the floor.

What, in your expert opinion, do the Hawks do with Gallo? — Bill M. 

I’d imagine they’ll try trading him on draft night. If a move doesn’t emerge during the draft, he’ll likely be waived and paid his $5 million guarantee on or before June 29, which is his fully guaranteed date.

What are the Hawks going to do with pick No. 44? — Matthew K. 

As of now, I’m expecting the Hawks to keep that pick and roster their selection. They like a few players who are expected to go in that range, and that player won’t cost a lot of money. The Hawks are going to have to fill out their roster with a few cheap players and keeping No. 44 is one way to do that.

Could and should the Hawks have traded for Christian Wood? — Troy R. 

I don’t think the Hawks have anything realistic that the Rockets would have wanted in a trade for Wood, who is headed to Dallas for the No. 26 overall pick, Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss and Sterling Brown. All of the Hawks’ smaller salaries are free agents this offseason or are young players who you wouldn’t want to trade away for Wood like Jalen Johnson or Onyeka Okongwu. Salary-wise, it would have worked for Danilo Gallinari or Kevin Huerter. The Rockets have no use for Gallinari and the Hawks wouldn’t trade Huerter for Wood.

Plus, trading for Wood wouldn’t have solved much of anything for the Hawks. He’s another offense-first player who’s a bad defender. They don’t need another one of those kinds of players on the roster.

(Photo of John Collins and Rudy Gobert: Dale Zanine / USA Today)

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