Should the Hornets pursue Hawks’ John Collins? The risks and rewards of such a trade.

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Rick Bonnell
·5 min read
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The Charlotte Hornets trading for Atlanta Hawks forward-center John Collins would be bold and expensive.

The Hawks are reportedly open to dealing Collins, the former Wake Forest star, after they couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension in the offseason. The price to the Hornets — both in trade capital and what it would cost to re-sign him — would be huge.

At 6-9, Collins would provide an upgrade as a scorer among Hornets big men (17.4 ppg.this season) and also improve the rebounding, a Charlotte weakness the past few seasons. However, he isn’t the low-post defensive presence the Hornets need.

In this mailbag, we answer questions about Collins and the Hornets:

Ninjanarwhalz asks: Any chance the Hornets make a run at John Collins if the Hawks really are planning to move him?

I’d be shocked if the Hornets haven’t already inquired about Collins’ availability. But how much would general manager Mitch Kupchak risk to make this happen?

I assume the Hornets would have to give up at least a first-round pick with little or no lottery protection and one of their two young forwards, P.J. Washington or Miles Bridges. Collins will be a restricted free agent after this season.

Collins reportedly turned down more than $90 million in an extension from the Hawks and has indicated he views himself as a maximum-salary player.

Would Collins be the Hornets’ best player? Because that’s what a max-salary expectation implies. It’s certainly worth investigating, but there’s a significant risk in inheriting this situation from the Hawks months from Collins reaching free-agency.

Kyle asks, do you think the Hornets would move on from Devonte Graham or Malik Monk to try and get more help inside?

That’s a good question that requires a complex answer.

Graham and Monk will both be free agents after this season, with the Hornets able to restrict them with qualifying offers. Even in restricted free-agency, there is some risk of losing a player for no compensation.

The Hornets are clearly deeper at guard, where Graham and Monk play, than at center.

Here’s where it gets complex: Graham’s or Monk’s trade value likely isn’t as high as what either one’s value is to this Hornets team. There’s a strong chance Kupchak would be “selling low” right now by including Graham or Monk in a deal for a big man.

The Hornets have invested abundant playing time into Graham and Monk becoming rotation players. I doubt moving either one before the March 25 trade deadline would result in fair value coming back.

Gordon Dill asks, did the Hornets win the Kemba Walker trade?

With Terry Rozier playing so well, I’ve been asked this question a couple of ways: Essentially, did the Hornets trade up by replacing Walker with Rozier?

While Walker going to Boston and Rozier coming to Charlotte was technically a two-way sign-and-trade, that doesn’t accurately convey the circumstance:

Walker agreed to terms with the Boston Celtics, who had the cap flexibility to sign him outright in the summer of 2019. The Hornets wanted Rozier, but signing him to the agreed-to $56.7 million over three years couldn’t happen without the Celtics’ help with a sign-and-trade.

The Celtics owe Walker more than $70 million over the next two seasons. That was always going to be a risk, considering Walker’s mileage and knee issue. Rozier is four years younger than Walker at 26 and a lot less expensive, with an $18 million salary next season.

I’d rather be the Hornets than the Celtics in this regard. But I don’t characterize that as “winning a trade,” because that’s not how it really went down.

BuzzCitySzn asks, will LaMelo Ball continue starting once everyone is healthy?

The series of injuries to other rotation players — Graham will miss his fourth consecutive game, against the Golden State Warriors — has kicked that can down the road.

But I’d be really surprised if Ball isn’t a starter the rest of the season.

Scott Reid asks, who is the MVP of the Hornets at this point in the season?

A month ago, I would have said Gordon Hayward. Now, I’d narrowly say Rozier.

Hayward is so important as a connector/decision-maker, and filled a huge gap at small forward. Rozier isn’t just scoring and shooting, he usually guards the opposing team’s best perimeter player.

It’s very close, but I’d say Rozier for now.

LRod asks, will Cody Zeller or Bismack Biyombo be moved in a trade or a buyout?

I don’t know why either would request a buyout: They both have significant roles in Charlotte, so why would they give up guaranteed money to be released?

Zeller has trade value, but unless he’s in a deal that clearly improves Charlotte at center, why do that?

Jcasterlin asks, should Vernon Carey be called back from the G-League, since he provides a big interior presence?

The G-League’s compact schedule within the bubble at Disney ends March 6. So Carey and fellow rookie Nick Richards will both be back with the Hornets after the All-Star break.

There’s no upside to moving Carey back to the Hornets for the last three games of this road trip. I don’t think he’d take minutes from Zeller or Biyombo at center. Better to get him every game available with the Swarm, because each G-League team is guaranteed only 15 this season within the bubble.