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How a John Collins Trade Makes Sense for the Trail Blazers

Plenty of options have been mentioned for Portland, but this is a good one...probably.

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers trade rumors have sprung up like dandelions after a rainfall in the early months of the summer. The latest, hottest rumors surround Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins. Could he be the lever that pries the 7th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft away from the Blazers? That’s the topic of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.

Hey Dave,

John Collins is the new hotness this week. Where does he rank in the list now of possible people we could get?

Michael

He’s top tier, along with Deandre Ayton and OG Anunoby. He ranks in between the two, though some would argue he and Ayton are 1 and 1A, with debates over which belongs on top.

Collins’ best attribute right now is that he seems to be gettable. The story may change between now and July, depending on offers. But rumors have the 7th pick as adequate payment for him, straight up. Unless they have a better move in the wings, the Blazers shouldn’t blink twice about jumping on that.

Collins is a real talent on offense. He dropped this year to a 52.6% field goal percentage. Most people aspire to that level of efficiency. His career average is 55.9% and his career high is 58.3%.

That’s not uncommon for a lane-bound big, but surprise! Collins isn’t. In that career-high season, 2019-20, he attempted approximately 47% of his shots inside three feet. 24% came beyond the three-point arc. He hit 40.1% from distance that year. That’s Wesley Matthews accuracy in a power forward.

Collins also connected at a 40% from the arc the following season before dropping to 36.4% this year. Nowadays, only a third of his shots come within three feet. 27% come from deep, another third in between.

Collins is a decent rebounder, with potential to be good. He was a strong offensive rebounder early in his career, when he played inside more. That’s dropped off steadily, in aggregate precipitously, as his career has evolved and he’s drifted outside.

Collins is not an active passer. He’s going to be an endpoint on offense more than a conduit. But as we just detailed, he’s a good endpoint.

He’s also a good partner in the pick and roll. The possibilities of Collins and Lillard working a two-man game should excite Blazers fans even more than Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic. Collins has plenty of ways to score, including on the move. Opponents would need to scheme for this possibility every night.

Collins’ weaknesses show up on the defensive end of the court. He’s fine when tasked with watching the paint, as long as the opponent doesn’t out-size him too much. He’s not a shot blocker. He’s more athletic than mobile and often has trouble closing out to the perimeter. Once upon a time, that wasn’t a sin for power forwards. In today’s NBA, fours are required to close out to the edges of the court even if their own man isn’t out there lofting threes, which he often is. But Collins isn’t a slacker. He knows what to do on defense and can fit into a solid team front. He just won’t anchor, or even create, that front himself.

At 25 years of age, Collins is in the magic, “Goldilocks” zone for the Blazers. He’s veteran enough to help with Lillard’s quest for contention, young enough to continue onward as a valued member of the lineup should that quest implode. He’s making between $23.5-$26.6 million over the next three seasons. That’s a nice price for a forward with his talent. He has a player option in the fourth year, but the Blazers can’t forecast that far ahead at this point anyway. Collins sits with Anunoby as one of the most reasonable financial “gets” the Blazers could look at. Unlike Ayton and Jerami Grant, they won’t have to balloon Collins’ salary into oblivion anytime soon.

Injuries are the biggest intangible haunting Collins’ candidacy. In the past three seasons he’s played 41, 63, and 54 games. Even with COVID-shortened years in there, that’s not good. The Blazers should have a phobia about dealing for chronically-injured bigs. The track record isn’t good. But Collins’ combination of talent, age, and contract make this a near no-brainer if the alternative is picking up a second-tier rookie in the draft.

Ayton would probably be a more intriguing acquisition, also safer in the injury department, but he’d be a far more expensive commitment. Collins is right-sized in too many ways for the Blazers to ignore at the cost of simply a 7th pick. If they’re scared of injuries, they could ask for more compensation besides, but either way, there’d be no reason to be mad about this deal.

Thanks for the question, Michael! You all can send yours in to blazersub@gmail.com and we’ll try to answer!