John Collins staying in Atlanta

Hawks forward John Collins reacts as Trae Young hits a three pointer during a 116-113 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Milwaukee.  (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Hawks forward John Collins reacts as Trae Young hits a three pointer during a 116-113 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Milwaukee. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

After a lengthy contract saga, the longest-tenured current Hawk is staying put in Atlanta.

John Collins, a restricted free agent, agreed to a five-year, $125 million deal with the Hawks, according to a person familiar with the situation. With Trae Young agreeing to a max deal Tuesday, keeping Collins gives the Hawks even more continuity from last season’s team that won two playoff series. As the Hawks aim to contend in the East for years to come, they maintains a talented offensive player who has steadily improved on defense.

ESPN first reported the deal, adding that Collins will have a player option on the fifth season.

For about a year-and-a-half, Collins has spoken about about wanting to be in the conversation for a max contract, though he was clear that wasn’t the only scenario he’d accept. Drafted at No. 19 in 2017, Collins took a step forward each season and became a cornerstone of the Hawks’ rebuild, with Young and wing Kevin Huerter arriving the next year; De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish arriving the year after that.

A talented, bouncy offensive player who can fly to the rim, Collins fit exceedingly well alongside Young, and ended up second on the team in scoring in the 2019-20 season, averaging 21.6 points per game. He was one of the few players to average a double-double of 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds, with 10.1. But, at that point in rebuilding, the Hawks weren’t winning yet, going 20-47 that season. And, because of a suspension, Collins played in only 41 games.

Entering last season, Collins and the Hawks couldn’t come to an agreement for a rookie extension, which set him up to become a restricted free agent this offseason, provided he stayed with the team up to that point. Collins turned down $90 million, per ESPN, choosing to bet on himself.

That bet may end up paying off for both sides, as Collins still ends up with a hefty deal and the Hawks get to keep Collins, who has been integral to their rebuilding process and remains a big part of what they do, despite improving the roster to include players such as center Clint Capela and Hunter.

Last season, Collins’ scoring stats dipped slightly (for the record, so did Young’s,) as the Hawks had more players able to contribute. He finished with 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per game, with 13.9 points and 8.7 points in 32 minutes per game in the playoffs. A few times throughout the season, Collins spoke about sacrificing for the good of the team, being willing to alter his role for whatever would help the Hawks win (general manager Travis Schlenk later commended Collins for this mind-set, especially amid some back-and-forth with his contract).

Although the addition of Capela, another rim-runner and rebounder, takes away some opportunities for Collins, the Hawks’ offense seems to be at its best when Collins is involved. Continuing to improve as a defender and growing as a passer are likely two of the next steps in Collins’ growth.

Collins also is known as an outgoing guy, with a big personality, and has developed into a vocal leader. In addition to his production on the court, the Hawks will be happy to have his locker-room presence for years to come.