If one thing is consistently true about the San Antonio Spurs, it’s that it’s often difficult to gauge what they’re thinking. That remains true heading into an offseason that could go a number of different directions, but at least two things have been well known regardless of if PATFO says anything about it or not: the Spurs need to address the power forward position, and they’ll have money to burn this summer.
One player who could help fill the PF void is Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, who helped lead his team to their first playoff appearance since 2017 and first Conference Finals since 2015. While his numbers this season dipped a bit from his career year in 2020, his overall value has still gone up, showing he may have been right to not sign the $90 million extension he was offered last summer.
The Hawks now have until August 1 to convince him one more time to re-sign, or he will become a restricted free agent. The problem is the Hawks have another player who is a lock for the max contract extension, and that’s Trae Young, who can sign for at least $168 million for five years beginning in the 2022/23 season. While Collins can also re-sign for above $100 million, the Hawks are reportedly hoping for team-friendly deal from him, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.
“Our job is to come to a fair agreement with John. That’s our objective. There should be no question,” (Hawks owner Tony) Ressler said. “He’s a really good player and maybe more importantly, a really good person. So the idea of having both is important to this franchise. That’s my view. The idea of being smart for both of us, to come to a reasonable place, that’s the objective, and there should be no confusion ... John played as an amazing teammate trying to win games and doing whatever he could do to win games. John’s a really good guy and a really good teammate. I hope he is an Atlanta Hawk.”
If a team has no doubt about giving a player what they want, terms like “fair agreement” aren’t just thrown out there. This is not to say that Collins is a max player — he’s not, in my opinion — but if he thinks he’s worth more than the Hawks are willing to offer and chooses not to accept, that means he will become a restricted free agent, and they will be forced to match any offer that comes his way if they choose to keep him.
Ressler also said in that same interview regarding keeping the current squad together that it’s a “pretty good bet” that they won’t be able to keep every player they want to keep. Collins could be one of those players, and one thing to keep in mind he’s part of a pretty deep forward rotation that includes Danillo Gallinari, De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, and Cam Reddish (among others) who are under contract next season or beyond, so the Hawks wouldn’t be left bleeding too much at that position if they lost him.
As a result, Kirschner lists the Spurs as a “perfect fit” who can pay up for Collins if they so choose. It’s worth noting that Collins has stated that he hopes to sign a new deal with the Hawks, but in case he does hit the market, he could be a player the Spurs extend an offer to. For one, he fills a potentially huge positional gap on the roster, especially if Rudy Gay departs in free agency, which would leave Luka Samanic as the only traditional power forward on the team. While he should be ready for a rotation spot next season, he’s likely not ready to be a starter yet, especially if the Spurs’ goal is to remain competitive. Meanwhile, Collins has been starting for three years now and has playoff experience to boot.
However, the “perfect fit” part goes beyond just the Spurs having money and potentially a wide open starting position for him. At 6’9” with a 6’11” wingspan, he was a net positive on both ends of the court for the Hawks last season, and he has shot right at 40% from three on about 3.5 attempts for the last two season. His defensive presence, good finishing ability around the rim, and ability to space the floor — all without consistently needing the ball in his hands — would all be welcomed additions to the roster.
None of this is to say Collins is the answer that will get the Spurs back into contender status. He may not even make them more than a first-round playoff team without any other major moves, but they have to start filling the holes at some point, and he would be a good start. Of course, there are other potential options out there, like Lauri Markkanen, but Collins provides more of a full package.
Besides, the last time they signed a power forward from Wake Forest, it went pretty well.