Hawks deal John Collins to Jazz, open huge exception, sources say

In a deal that delivers the franchise dramatic financial flexibility, the Atlanta Hawks are trading forward John Collins to the Utah Jazz.

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Sources have confirmed that the Atlanta Hawks are making a significant move, trading forward John Collins to the Utah Jazz in a deal that promises to bring financial flexibility to the franchise. In return for Collins, the Hawks will acquire forward Rudy Gay and a future second-round pick, as reported by sources familiar with the matter. Collins, who is owed a substantial $78 million over the next three seasons, will find himself in Utah as part of this transaction. Notably, this trade creates a massive $25.3 million trade exception for the Hawks, solidifying their status as the possessors of the largest trade exception in the entire NBA. With a one-year window to potentially leverage this exception for acquiring a player’s contract, the Hawks are poised to explore their options and maximize their newfound flexibility.

It is important to note that the trade will not become official until July 6, allowing both teams to finalize the necessary formalities. The arrival of Collins in Utah brings a versatile forward to join forces with All-Star Lauri Markkanen and All-Rookie center Walker Kessler on the front line. The Jazz, who recently utilized the ninth pick in the NBA draft to select power forward Taylor Hendricks from Central Florida, exhibited an impressive offensive prowess under the guidance of first-year coach Will Hardy. With Collins’ arrival, the Jazz aim to solidify their position and make a return to the Western Conference playoffs in the upcoming season.

The Hawks and Jazz have been engaged in discussions regarding various iterations of this deal for over a year. However, the complexities arising from the changes in the new collective bargaining agreement made it challenging to find a suitable return of assets for Collins, similar to the Golden State Warriors’ recent trade involving Jordan Poole and his substantial $130 million-plus contract obligations.

For the Atlanta Hawks, the acquisition of Rudy Gay brings several advantages. Gay, who exercised his $6.4 million player option for the next season as part of the trade, enables the Hawks to significantly reduce their financial burden. This move allows the team to comfortably position itself below the $182.5 million second apron and the $165 million luxury tax threshold for the 2023-24 season. Despite these adjustments, sources indicate that the Hawks remain committed to actively engaging in further deals during the offseason. Ownership has granted general manager Landry Fields the authority to enter the luxury tax territory if necessary to enhance the team’s roster, demonstrating their dedication to continued improvement.

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Collins’ departure presents an opportunity for the Hawks to explore potential contract extensions for three key young players: Dejounte Murray, Onyeka Okongwu, and Saddiq Bey. Additionally, forward Jalen Johnson is poised to assume a more prominent role in his third season with the team following Collins’ exit.

By positioning themselves below the NBA’s new second-apron tax level ahead of 2024, the Hawks have ensured that they will not be subjected to the punitive team-building provisions that could have restricted their roster flexibility.

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Collins’ tenure with the Hawks has been a success story. Selected as the 19th overall pick in the 2017 draft, he has blossomed into one of the Eastern Conference’s premier forwards. Throughout his six seasons with the Hawks, Collins has maintained impressive averages of 15.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, including 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds during the 2022-23 season. Notably, among players who have been active over the past six seasons, Collins is one of only five individuals to average 15 points on 55% shooting or higher, joining the esteemed company of Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jonas Valanciunas, and Domantas Sabonis.

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