Hawks GM Travis Schlenk on trade deadline and John Collins

Orlando Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams (7) goes up for a shot between Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter (3) and forward John Collins (20) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Orlando Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams (7) goes up for a shot between Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter (3) and forward John Collins (20) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

With back-to-back wins for interim coach Nate McMillan, the Hawks finished the first half of the season strongly in the tumultuous days after Lloyd Pierce was fired.

Moving into the second half, both the team and general manager Travis Schlenk will face several questions, ranging from whether this group truly has playoff potential to what the roster will look like after the NBA trade deadline March 25, with John Collins obviously set to become a restricted free agent after the season.

Schlenk certainly has been active at previous trade deadlines (last season, he brought in center Clint Capela, who has proved to be a massive improvement at center). As of now, he said the Hawks (16-20) are having conversations with teams around the league, but there’s nothing immediate that’s pending, though that obviously can change in a hurry if the right offer is made.

“You rarely get teams’ best offers, nobody gets real serious until you get down to the last week or two,” Schlenk said. “It’s hard to gauge. We certainly will look to do anything we can that feels like (it), is going to make us a better team in the short-term and the long-term. Those sometimes don’t go hand-in-hand, but we’ll look at any situation we think that will help us.”

Collins, specifically, will garner interest from teams, as an energetic young power forward with great scoring capabilities, who has taken another step forward on defense this season. He’s averaging 18 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, shooting 39% from 3-point range. He has started and played in all 36 games.

The addition of Capela has helped Collins do what he does best -- slide back to his natural position. Capela acting as a rim protector and defensive backstop frees up Collins, while last season he had to play ample games as a small-ball center, which is a tough request for him on defense.

With all the rebuilding and moves made over the past few years of Schlenk’s tenure, Collins is the longest-tenured Hawk, in his fourth season. The Hawks made him a “competitive” offer going into this season, but the two sides weren’t able to reach an agreement for an extension, and therefore Collins will become a restricted free agent after the season, if he’s still with the team. In the past, Collins has mentioned he feels he should be in the conversation for a max deal, but has also said he knows you don’t always get exactly what you want in negotiations.

Schlenk said Collins is a big part of the Hawks, and emphasized that the Hawks will have the opportunity to match any offer that comes his way. He said he can’t see the Hawks letting Collins “walk for nothing” in restricted free agency.

“John’s a big part of our team. I think he’s second on the team in scoring right now. We all know how effective he can be offensively with his ability to finish in the lane and to shoot the ball from the perimeter,” Schlenk said. “So we still view John as a part of our team, certainly. He’s made the decision this fall to go to restricted free agency, and that was his choice and obviously we respect it.

“But we’re going to have the opportunity to match any offer he gets. We’ll certainly make him an offer in free agency as well, and he’ll have the ability to see if he can get an offer from another team. But at the end of the day, we view him as part of our team, and I don’t see a restricted free-agency situation where we would just let him walk for nothing.”

As to whether the Hawks are actively listening to trade offers for Collins, Schlenk acknowledged that teams have interest in him. That part isn’t surprising in the slightest, as Collins could certainly help out many teams around the league.

“We listen about all our guys, that’s our job, to see what the value of all our guys are,” Schlenk said. “John is a good young player, and teams have interest in him, no question about it. But we listen on all our guys, I guess is the short answer.”

Schlenk said the Hawks recognize what Collins brings to the table, and Collins doesn’t have to prove anything further for the Hawks to match an offer for him. Of course, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what other teams will offer Collins, or exactly what they would offer in exchange for him via trade.

Collins has been one of the cornerstones of the Hawks’ rebuild, along with Trae Young, who arrived a year later.

“I don’t know that I need to see anything from him, to match an offer for him, to be completely frank,” Schlenk said. “We know who John is as a player, we get how productive he is. He doesn’t have to prove anything to us.”

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