Courtesy of NBA.com News Services
The Utah Jazz are busy once again in the offseason, agreeing to a reported frontcourt swap. Per multiple reports, the Atlanta Hawks are sending forward/center John Collins to Utah for swingman Rudy Gay and a second-round pick. The trade won’t be finalized until July 6 at the earliest.
- Rudy Gay
- Future second-round pick
- John Collins
Last summer, the Jazz dealt All-Star center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves and guard Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a part of that trade, the Jazz got back Lauri Markkanen from the Cavs, who blossomed into an All-Star in 2022-23.
Collins is entering his seventh NBA season and averaged 13.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 blocks per game in 30 minutes per game with the Hawks last season. However, his stats have declined since the 2019-20 season in which he averaged a career-best 21.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg.
In Utah, Collins will join a frontcourt that boasts Markkanen (25.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.9 apg last season), second-year center Walker Kessler (9.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.3 bpg) and rookie Taylor Hendricks (the No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft). Markkanen was the Kia Most Improved Player, while Kessler — a player Utah landed in the Gobert deal — became an All-Rookie first team selection and ranked fourth in the league in blocks per game.
After dealing away Gobert and Mitchell, the Jazz were considered an afterthought in the Western Conference as last season began. However, the team was competitive early, starting 10-3 and hovering around .500 until about the All-Star break. The midseason trades of Mike Conley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley sapped Utah of some scoring punch and a late-season injury to Markkanen brought Utah’s playoff and AT&T Play-In Tournament hopes to an end by early April.
Collins signed a five-year, $125 million contract in 2021 and still has two seasons left (along with a player option in 2025-26) on his deal. Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the trade creates a $25.3 million trade exception, which is the largest in the NBA, and something Atlanta has a year to potentially use.
The deal also gives Atlanta flexibility to explore possible contract extensions for Dejounte Murray, Onyeka Okongwu and Saddiq Bey. Collins’ departure opens up playing time for Okongwu as well as talented frontcourt youngsters such as AJ Griffin and Jalen Johnson, both of whom showed flashes of development at various times last season.
Gay is a 17-year NBA veteran and spent the last two seasons with the Jazz as a reserve. Last season, he posted 5.2 ppg and 2.9 rpg in 14.6 mpg as he average career lows in practically every category. He held a player option for next season, which he reportedly exercised to allow the trade to happen.
The Hawks showed no real improvement after coach Quin Snyder took over in late February, going 10-11 over the final 21 games of the regular season to complete a maddening year at 41-41. They claimed the No. 7 seed with a play-in victory at Miami, only to fall to the second-seeded Celtics — their second straight one round-and-done showing in the NBA Playoffs.
After years of struggling to fill the seats, the Hawks averaged a team-record 17,555 per game and sold out State Farm Arena for nearly every game. But the team rarely gave its fans a lot to cheer about.
“I want to be looked at as a team that should come in and win a championship, not just be in the picture, not just be in the running,” Hawks star Trae Young said in April. “I want to come into the season as a team that people look at it and say they can win, they’ve got a chance. That’s my whole focus and my whole mindset.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.