Wizards trade rumors: Still pursuing John Collins after Rui trade?

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks and Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards. Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks and Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards. Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images /

The Washington Wizards need to find a way to shake things up. They have some sort of organizational mandate to compete at all costs, so expecting or prompting them to tank will be a fruitless endeavor. Yet even with four-straight wins they are just 22-26, tied for 10th in the East.

Their trade recently that sent Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers was about this summer, not this season, and will likely hurt their chances at winning games. Does that mean another deal is coming to help the Wizards try to cement their place in the Play-In Tournament?

The Washington Wizards may have another trade up their sleeve before the deadline.

Washington has been linked in trade rumors to John Collins, a talented big man who has gone from a centerpiece to an afterthought in Atlanta. The Hawks have been trying to move him for a couple of years as he doesn’t quite fit their plan of surrounding a Trae Young pick-and-roll with pure shooters.

With the Wizards trading Hachimura for a point guard, it would seem that they have opened up a spot in the frontcourt for Collins. Especially with Kristaps Porzingis out right now, the Wizards have an opening for an offensively potent forward in the short term.

The problem is the long term, as Collins is under contract for over $78 million each of the next three seasons. The Wizards made the Rui Hachimura trade not to open up space at power forward but to open up space under the luxury tax to re-sign combo forward Kyle Kuzma this summer.

It may be that the Wizards have worked out a quiet agreement with Kuzma to bring him back this summer, but that is no guarantee. He can become an unrestricted free agent and have his pick of teams with cap space. He has expressed in the past that he wants to play for a contender, in a big market, or both. Washington can’t really offer him either to the extent he likely desires.

John Collins is a really good player. His role on the Hawks has continued to be marginalized, but he is a good shooter and elite scorer inside, with strong rebounding skills and good weakside shot-blocking ability even if he struggles defensively as the center. If given the touches he could easily be an efficient 20-and-10 guy once again.

He’s also being undervalued by the market right now, with teams not comfortable committing to his long-term salary, and certainly not at the Hawks’ asking price. It’s very possible that forces Atlanta to lower its asking price, making Collins available at a below-market rate.

Collins is only 25 years old, is under contract for at least two more seasons, and he could be an intriguing option for the Wizards. He could be an excellent fit next to Kristaps Porzingis if Kuzma walks, or as an offensive replacement for Porzingis if he leaves. The fit is more awkward if Kuzma and Porzingis stick around, but Washington could then pivot to move Collins next summer.

What would a trade look like? Collins makes $23.5 million this season, and a trade from the Wizards probably has to include Will Barton. From there, perhaps it’s some combination of Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert or Johnny Davis to sweeten the return for the Hawks. Both teams are close under the luxury tax, making it tricky to balance out the money.

Would the Wizards make this deal? Probably not, as the Hachimura trade was about clearing money from the frontcourt and this would add to it. Collins could be a great fit with the Wizards, and he is an excellent “buy-low” candidate for NBA teams, but if the Wizards truly think they can/will re-sign Kyle Kuzma, this isn’t the deal for them.

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Verdict: Pass