Collins’ trade to the Jazz allows the Hawks to compete in free agency as they look to improve following their 41-41 regular-season performance and their first-round playoff exit for the second consecutive year.
The 36-year-old Gay played for coach Quin Snyder in Utah during the 2021-22 season, averaging 8.1 points in 55 games. The No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft, Gay has averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in 17 NBA seasons.
But the Hawks have a logjam of depth at the wing position and have several young players who took some steps forward in their development.
After spending his rookie season with the College Park Skyhawks, Jalen Johnson cracked the Hawks’ rotation last season. Though he averaged only 5.6 points and four rebounds last season, he came into his own once Snyder took over in late February.
He averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds on 53% overall shooting in 16 minutes. He found a little more rhythm, including back-to-back career games against the Bulls and Wizards on April 4 and April 5. He scored a career-high 16 points in both games after aggressively attacking the basket in ways his teammates and coaches had encouraged him to do all season.
In addition to Johnson, the Hawks also acquired forward Saddiq Bey at the trade deadline. He along with Johnson will compete to see who will fill the void that Collins’ trade leaves behind. Bey averaged 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 40% from 3 with the Hawks.
Both Bey and Johnson can slide up and down the lineup, depending upon what the game dictates.
The team also has wing AJ Griffin, who impressed in his rookie season despite little expectation that he would find a role in the team’s lineup. Griffin shot the ball well, knocking down 39% of his 3-point shots on 3.6 attempts per game.
In addition to the young players who will be jockeying for their positions in the rotation, the Hawks also have plenty of veterans in De’Andre Hunter and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The two likely will earn plenty of minutes next season, so the Hawks already have plenty of competition in training camp.
The Hawks still have plenty of refining to do with the roster, but with Collins’ salary off the books, they go below the luxury tax. It also created an exception that allows the Hawks to take in salary up to Collins’ salary ($25.3 million).
The team has nine players on guaranteed deals, which does not include the rookie-scale deal of No. 15 overall pick, Kobe Bufkin.
They also have four players with nonguaranteed deals, two of which – Garrison Mathews and Bruno Fernando – they will need to make a decision about before June 29.
Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, when teams can begin to officially negotiate with prospective free agents.