With the John Collins trade, forwards dominate early discussions

The stretch between last Thursday’s NBA draft and the start of free agency Friday night promised to bring trade activity. Sure enough, the Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks reached an agreement to bring John Collins to Salt Lake City, league sources told Yahoo Sports, ending nearly a year of dialogue between the two front offices centered around Collins trade scenarios. More movement appears to be on the horizon. The Hawks have also been active in talks about trade options for De’Andre Hunter, while other transactions, such as the Minnesota Timberwolves extending Naz Reid to three years, $42 million, will have ongoing ripple effects across the offseason landscape.

Collins’ trade to Utah is the latest in a string of cost-conscious deals around the NBA. The Warriors’ trade of Jordan Poole for Chris Paul was perhaps the most notable deal on draft day, as the Mavericks and Kings also unloaded Dāvis Bertāns and Richaun Holmes, respectively. Atlanta tried various avenues to finally move back the three seasons of Collins’ five-year, $125 million deal throughout the predraft process, sources said. It once seemed like the Mavericks and Hawks would be perfect trade partners, but the two teams never struck a deal — including hitting out at Clint Capela concepts, sources said — that could have involved the Nos. 10 and 15 picks switching hands in different results.

Atlanta’s talks with Utah were also well known around the league. The Hawks and Jazz have discussed Collins trades dating back to the aftermath of the Utah trade for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, and the Jazz with the Nos. 9 and 16 picks presented other logical options for the Hawks. However, Atlanta could not use Collins to move up in the draft. That’s the nature of the NBA’s marketplace under the new collective bargaining agreement, where player salaries are expected to continue to rise after the league’s next television contract in 2025. Both the Hawks and Jazz, league sources told Yahoo Sports, left draft night with the understanding that that a Collins deal could still be finalized before the start of free agency. It took Rudy Gay picking up his $6.4 million player option on Monday to complete the transaction, but Collins is finally a member of the Jazz. We’ll see if any of Atlanta’s other loose ends in trade talks, like the Hawks’ draft-week negotiations with the Pistons and Pacers regarding Hunter, can regain momentum.

John Collins landing with Utah could remove a potential landing spot for others. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

How the rest of this offseason unfolds always happens in some sort of trickle-down effect. Utah, for example, had planned to target forwards in the market, sources said, and the acquisition of Collins takes a potential landing spot off the board for someone like Kyle Kuzma — one of the top free-agent forwards said to be on looking for up to $30 million in average annual salary. The Jazz first landed Collins, mind you, after Utah lost the chance to sign a primary target in free agency. As Marc Stein first reported on Substack, the Jazz were expected to be high bidders for Kristaps Porziņģis until the Wizards managed to pull off a three-team trade with the Celtics and Grizzlies that sent Porziņģis to Boston. The Celtics now get the chance to extend Porziņģis for two more years, further questioning Grant Williams’ status in Boston.

Williams is another power forward who has been linked to Utah before he reaches restricted free agency, further illustrating how interconnected the offseason’s web of scenarios is. Utah can still create up to $28 million in cap space this summer, but that would require letting go of veteran scorer Jordan Clarkson, and the Jazz backup has long been considered a favorite of Utah team owner Ryan Smith. While the Jazz retain ample cap space, it’s hard to foresee another frontcourt piece looking to join Utah’s rotation, which is already loaded with All-Star Lauri Markkanen, second-year center Walker Kessler, Collins and No. 9 Taylor . Hendricks. Maybe that money is still enough to scare the Lakers away with a massive offer sheet for Austin Reaves.

Reaves still appears to be an option for the Rockets, though rumors have only grown in league circles about Houston’s chances of courting veteran point guard Fred VanVleet from Toronto. While staying with the Raptors still sounds like it’s on the table for both parties, Houston is prepared to offer VanVleet a very competitive deal, while all those whispers about James Harden’s return have dropped noticeably in recent weeks. The Rockets, sources said, are considering short-term, high-salary contracts to land top free agents with their $61 million cap hit. It would take a max contract to ultimately lure VanVleet away from Toronto, sources said, which will top out at two years, $80 million. Dillon Brooks continues to be mentioned by league personnel as the top wing on the Rockets’ radar, in addition to Brook Lopez ranking as Houston’s primary big man option. Watch for the Rockets possibly trading leaping forward KJ Martin to create additional financial flexibility. The Rockets have fielded an increasing number of trade calls on Martin with multiple teams since the NBA draft, sources told Yahoo Sports. Atlanta, Phoenix and Brooklyn have been mentioned as Martin suitors dating back to February’s trade deadline.

The other key forward spots in free agency will be Indiana and Detroit, both of which could disappear depending on what happens with the aforementioned Hunter trade. The Pacers, sources said, are also a strong contender to sign Harrison Barnes from the Sacramento Kings. Barnes had a close relationship with All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton during their overlapping tenures in Northern California, and Barnes has additional support from Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle dating back to their days together with the Mavericks. Signing Barnes could hurt other top Indiana targets, such as Williams and Heat swingman Max Strus, sources said, who could also be in play for Orlando and Detroit, depending on what the Pistons accomplish. The rumblings of Detroit and former Suns coach Monty Williams throwing a massive offer sheet at Nets sharpshooter Cam Johnson, who reached the 2021 NBA Finals under Williams, has certainly picked up steam around the league. Although the Nets are expected to match any practical offer for Johnson, and rival executives are prepared for Brooklyn to look at additional cost-cutting trades in the wake of a potentially expensive new deal for Johnson.

Barnes’ likely departure from Sacramento, coupled with the Kings creating about $35 million in cap space after the draft night trade for Holmes and the No. 24 pick to Dallas, has rival front offices wondering what big swing the Kings are planning in free agency . Outright selling a first-round pick for savings, even in this economy, has many league personnel thinking that Sacramento has a specific move up its sleeve — not just renegotiating and extending All-NBA center Domantas Sabonis for what that is expected to be in the sleeve. ballpark of four years, $120 million, sources said.

Sacramento going after Bucks All-Star guard Khris Middleton has been a popular theory fueled by league numbers, but all signs point to Milwaukee and Middleton finalizing a new deal when free agency begins Friday after Middleton declined his 2023 -24 player selection last week. The Kings and head coach Mike Brown stealing Draymond Green from the Warriors would be a good story, while Portland and Detroit are also expected to make a play for Green, sources said. Although all indications continue to point to Green returning to the franchise with which he has won four championships.

The name that has gained plenty of momentum as a potential Sacramento target is Kuzma, who once thrived down the road in Los Angeles and was almost dealt to the Kings in 2021 before the Lakers redirected Kuzma to the Wizards instead and acquired Russell Westbrook. Even with a new deal for Sabonis, plus the Kings’ expectation to bring back versatile forward Trey Lyles, sources said, Sacramento could have more than $25 million to play with in cap room, according to salary projections provided to Yahoo Sports.

A Sabonis extension would eliminate one of the best big men from next summer’s free-agent class a year early. Reid, a key center in the summer market returning to Minnesota, has opposing executives waiting to see if the Timberwolves waive veteran wing Taurean Prince and his $7.5 million non-guaranteed salary, which would help Minnesota to access the full mid-level exemption. There have already been several names linked to the Wolves in that salary cap, and they all play bigger combo guards like Bruce Brown and Donte DiVincenzo. Both players are expected to have more options in the contract area, where there has been increasing noise among league personnel about DiVincenzo joining former Villanova teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart in New York.

San Antonio was known to be holding out on a short-term contract for Reid and hoped to pair him with Victor Wembanyama in the frontcourt, sources said. Now the Spurs will have to turn to other targets, perhaps someone like Pelicans center Jonas Valančiūnas, as New Orleans and San Antonio recently made trades to relieve Devonte’ Graham’s contract, and the Pelicans, sources said, have since made Valančiūnas available in pursuit of more mobile, rim-protecting big men. New Orleans made a call, sources said, to Cleveland about getting Jarrett Allen. Another team that wanted to be in the mix for Reid was Allen’s Cavaliers, sources said. Cleveland would have needed a sign-and-trade avenue to acquire the talented big man. It remains to be seen if the Cavs will continue to look for other backup options behind Allen and Evan Mobley, or if the front office simply valued Reid that highly.

The last prime trade situation at this point remains in Washington, where the Wizards are seeking draft compensation for both veteran guards Monte Morris and Delon Wright, sources said. With Washington currently holding 16 players on guaranteed contracts, the Wizards are also expected to sign Danilo Gallinari, acquired in the Porziņģis trade, off waivers, clearing the way for the veteran scorer to find a home with a playoff contender. Clippers guard Norman Powell is also considered available for a league-wide trade after his name was first mentioned in Los Angeles’ early efforts to acquire Paul from the Wizards.

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