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Why Celtics Should Target John Collins Trade amid Nicolas Batum Free-Agency Rumors

Joe TanseyJune 27, 2022

Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics should be looking to upgrade their roster to get back to the NBA Finals.

Rumors have already begun to swirl about which players the Eastern Conference champion could be interested in this offseason.

According to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer on his Please Don't Aggregate This podcast (h/t HoopsHype), the Celtics inquired about adding John Collins in a trade from the Atlanta Hawks.

"I do know that Boston called about him at one point in this draft cycle, but never brought this up publicly previously because I was told that it was never very serious that we’re going to get very far," he said.

The Athletic's Zach Harper mentioned "there's also some chatter the Celtics could be interested in a deal for Collins."

The Celtics have also been mentioned in the pursuit of free-agent forward Nicolas Batum, who is receiving interest from multiple teams, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo.

The Frenchman may be the cheaper, more practical veteran signing in free agency, but the Celtics should poke around the Collins situation a bit more after the Hawks put him on the trade block.

Boston would face stiff competition for either player if it entered the competition to land either of them. Collins would come at a higher price because of his age and the contract he would fetch.

However, Collins makes more sense as a fit to the current Boston roster than adding a veteran presence in Batum.

The 33-year-old would have been a more practical option if Boston had not made it to the NBA Finals. If the Celtics had fallen short of the Finals, it would have been nice to add a veteran player to provide a calming influence in that situation.

Now all of Boston's core players have Finals experience and a firsthand idea of what it takes to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy from their six-game series with the Golden State Warriors.

Acquiring Collins would be tougher than adding Batum, but it be worth the stress of sending a player or some draft picks back to Atlanta because of how it would set up the Celtics for the long-term future.

Collins is only 24 and he has proved during his five years in the NBA that he can be an inside-outside threat from the forward position. He averaged 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and shot 37.6 percent from three-point range so far in his time in the NBA.

Batum owns a career average of 11.1 points per game and has a 36.3 career three-point percentage. He would fit more of the role player mold, but the Celtics need extra help on the inside, especially if the Al Horford era comes to an end for a second time.

The Celtics should be looking to replace his role in the starting lineup. At 36, Horford could still be useful as a role player, but adding a younger player next to Robert Williams may be the piece that keeps the team atop the Eastern Conference.

The key for Boston should be to get younger. Golden State is already in the process of doing that with its young collection of draft picks, led by Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman. The Warriors will hope to integrate those players more into the rotation to complement Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and make up for Draymond Green's offensive inefficiencies.

If Golden State is already planning to get younger and the Memphis Grizzlies have a young core, it would make sense for the Celtics to follow that route with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Collins forming a "Big Three" and Williams occupying the center position.

The potential addition of Collins would give the Celtics an advantage over their main Eastern Conference contenders as well. With a healthy Khris Middleton, the Milwaukee Bucks could be viewed as Boston's top threat next season depending on what happens with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

Brooklyn is set for a potentially chaotic offseason involving Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, while Philadelphia needs to add a few pieces to support Joel Embiid and James Harden.

The Miami Heat may be the most complete team outside of Boston and Milwaukee, but they need to get younger as well after the injuries that derailed their postseason matchup with the Celtics.

The Celtics could roll out a starting five of Tatum, Brown, Collins, Williams and Marcus Smart next season. That would be the most complete starting lineup in the East.

Williams proved he could be a double-double machine this season. Collins could focus on being the secondary rebounder and adding an extra three-point threat on the perimeter, much like Horford did during the NBA Finals run. Collins would bring more athleticism and durability to the starting five over the player 12 years his senior.

Batum would be a borderline starter and bring less to the table in terms of scoring if Boston moved in that direction. The Celtics could use a hybrid of Horford and Batum and give more minutes to Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard, but why do all of that when you can have one player fill that role.

Boston may not end up with Collins, but there are enough intriguing qualities from the Atlanta forward that make him a solid fit and a long-term fix inside the team's rotation as it tries to extend its championship window.

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