Can Kings land Hawks big man John Collins without No. 4 pick?

Kings reportedly showing interest in Collins

James Ham
June 20, 2022

If you are getting dizzy from all of the pre-draft spinning, you aren’t the only one. 

Last week we heard the No. 4 overall pick was in play for the Sacramento Kings and there was a potential bidding war going on behind the scenes between teams like the Pistons, Pacers, Wizards and Knicks.

With a new week comes new possibilities, including a rumor from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that the Kings could just stand pat and select whomever falls to the in the draft, which at this point is looking more and more like Purdue sophomore Jaden Ivey.

"The Kings are becoming increasingly comfortable drafting at No. 4 in Thursday’s draft and have described a steep price for teams behind them in the lottery who are attempting to trade up,” sources told Charania. 

Could this be nothing more than posturing from the Kings? Of course it could be, but then again, if they don’t get the required assets in trade, drafting the best available player makes sense, especially if the Kings are being realistic about where they currently sit in the grand scheme of the Western Conference.

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In addition to potentially sticking at four, there is now more solid information regarding Atlanta Hawks power forward John Collins and a possible link to the Kings.

“Sacramento general manager Monte McNair has engaged in conversations around Hawks forward John Collins — among a slew of other established, productive players in the market — but there has been no involvement of the No. 4 pick in the discussions centered on Collins, and McNair will ultimately make the decision on the pick,” sources informed Charania.

Atlanta’s interest in moving away from Collins is one of the worst kept secrets in the league. After making it to the 2020-21 Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks locked up Collins with a five-year, $125 million contract that paid him $23 million last season.

Instead of building off the previous season’s success, Atlanta barely made it to the playoffs this season and now the salary and minutes pinch is starting to hit them hard.

This is a difficult position to be in. At 24 years old, Collins isn’t even in his prime yet and he’s proven to be an extremely useful NBA starter. His numbers dipped slightly this season, but he dealt with a right finger and right foot injury. 

In his fifth NBA season, he averaged 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and a block in 30.8 minutes per game. He shot 36.4 percent from 3-point range, which was down from the 39.9 percent he shot the season before, but that was in part due to the finger injury. 

Do the Kings have the ammunition to land Collins?

Collins isn’t quite the type of player that you trade the No.4 overall pick for. He can run the break with De’Aaron Fox and space the floor to open lanes for Domantas Sabonis. He also fits the age arc of the current Kings team and the fact that he’s under contract for the next four seasons is a plus, even at the $102 million figure remaining on his deal.

While his talent is undeniable, he isn’t worth a trade from the Kings’ No. 4 pick to where the Hawks are drafting at No. 16. There is a possibility for multiple trade downs by the Kings to get closer to the Hawks’ pick, but that’s complicated.

Where the Kings and Hawks might be able to come to some sort of common ground is with regards to the salary structure. The Kings have nearly $40 million in expiring contracts that could take plenty of pressure off Atlanta’s front office by trading veterans under short term deals. 

Swapping Harrison Barnes and his expiring $18.3 million contract to the Hawks would work straight up. A trade like this would also save Atlanta more than $5 million this season and nearly $84 million over the course of the next four seasons. It would also open up the potential for the Hawks to fall below the luxury tax this season.

This might not be enough for the Hawks to pull the trigger. The Kings could sweeten the deal with a few second round picks or even a protected future first rounder. They could also take on another of the Hawks' robust contracts to help unburden Atlanta’s salary woes.

Sacramento has the long term flexibility to take on a contract like the remaining four years and $65 million on Kevin Heurter’s deal. They would have to throw in a few more expiring contracts, but they could save the Hawks a tremendous amount in the long term while taking on two solid rotational players that fit crucial shooting needs. 

If this still doesn’t entice the Hawks, Monte McNair could dig deeper, especially if he trades down a spot or two from the highly sought after fourth overall pick. Atlanta has the No. 16 selection in the upcoming draft. Would the Kings consider moving down a bit to acquire another asset and then drop back again to the middle of the first if it meant landing a player like Collins?

Will Collins be a King?

This is all complex, but McNair’s Kings are a long way away from being a playoff contender with their current roster construction. Their first round pick is just one avenue to improve the roster, but it also could be the gateway to multiple moves to completely fortify the rotation.

Everything is a gamble. A move down in the draft could cost the Kings a future franchise building block. A trade for a veteran could shift one team’s salary woes to another. But when your franchise goal is to make the postseason for the first time in more than a decade and a half, rolling the dice on productive veterans over unproven prospects can help accelerate the reset. 

It might be shortsighted, but making a franchise altering trade could also capture lightning in a bottle. It’s happened for other teams on many occasions, but the Kings can’t seem to ever figure it all out.

Is Collins the answer? Can the Kings obtain him on the cheap? We’ll know more in a matter of days, but he very well could be a major piece to a playoff caliber team in Sacramento. 

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