How a John Collins trade makes sense for the Trail Blazers



Portland Trail Blazers trade rumors sprung up like dandelions after a downpour in the early summer months. The latest and hottest rumors surround Atlanta Hawks striker John Collins. Could it be the lever that lifts 2022’s 7th pick NBA Draft away from the Blazers? That’s the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge mailbag.

Hi Dave,

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

Michael

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

Collins’ best attribute right now is that he seems approachable. The story may change by July, depending on the offers. But rumors say the 7th pick is adequate payout for him, straight up. Unless they have better wing movement, the Blazers shouldn’t blink twice before jumping on it.

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

Not uncommon for a big lane-bound, but surprise! Collins is not. In that career-best 2019-20 season, he attempted around 47% of his shots from inside one yard. 24% came beyond the three-point arc. It reached 40.1% ranged that year. That’s Wesley Matthews’ precision in a power forward.

Collins also connected at 40% from the arc the following season before dropping to 36.4% this year. These days, only a third of his shots come within a yard. 27% come from deep, another third between the two.

Collins is a good rebounder, with the potential to be good. He was a strong offensive rebounder early in his career as he played more inside. This dropped steadily, on the whole precipitously, as his career evolved and he drifted outward.

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

It is also a good partner in pick and roll. Collins and Lillard’s ability to work a two-game should excite Blazers fans even more than Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic. Collins has many ways to score, including on the go. Opponents should plan for this possibility every night.

Collins’ weaknesses appear on the defensive side of the field. He’s fine when tasked with watching the paint, as long as the opponent doesn’t overrun him. It is not a shot blocker. He is more athletic than mobile and often struggles to get close to the perimeter. Once upon a time, it wasn’t a sin for power attackers. In today’s NBA, fours are bound to get close to the edges of the court even if their own man isn’t there at three, which he often is. But Collins is no slacker. He knows what to do in defense and can fit into a strong team front. He just doesn’t want to anchor, or even create, that facade himself.

At 25, Collins is in the “Goldilocks” magic zone for the Blazers. He’s veteran enough to aid in Lillard’s quest for Discord, young enough to carry on as a valued member of the roster if that quest implodes. He earns between $23.5 and $26.6 million over the next three seasons. It’s a good price for a striker with his talent. He has a fourth-year player option, but the Blazers can’t plan that far at this point anyway. Collins sits with Anunoby as one of the more reasonable financial “beneficiaries” the Blazers could consider. Unlike Ayton and Jerami Grant, they won’t have to obliterate Collins’ salary anytime soon.

Injuries are the biggest intangible that haunts Collins’ candidacy. Over the past three seasons, he has played 41, 63 and 54 games. Even with COVID-shortened years in there, it’s not good. The Blazers should have a phobia of dealing with big, chronic injuries. The track record is not good. But Collins’ combination of talent, age and contract make it a no-brainer if the alternative is to sign a No. 2 draft rookie.

Ayton would probably be a more intriguing acquisition, also safer in the injury department, but he would be a much more expensive commitment. Collins is the right size in many ways for the Blazers to ignore at the cost of a mere 7th pick. If they are scared of injuries, they could ask for additional compensation, but in any case, there would be no reason to be angry with this agreement.

Thanks for the question, Michael! You can all send yours to [email protected] and we’ll try to answer it!