Utah Jazz trade for Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins

Jazz part ways with veteran forward Rudy Gay in the deal.

The Utah Jazz have traded for Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, per a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

In return, the Jazz are sending back forward Rudy Gay — who is opting into the final year of his contract to facilitate a deal — and a future second-round pick.

Collins, 25, averaged 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season for the Hawks. He has averaged 15.8 points and 8.0 rebounds for his career, while shooting 35.6% from deep.

He is owed $78 million over the next three seasons, though the final year of his deal is a $26.58 million player option.

The deal cannot be made official until July 6.

Collins was the No. 19 overall pick out of Wake Forest in the 2017 NBA draft — the same one that produced Donovan Mitchell and Lauri Markkanen. He had early success with Atlanta, increasing his points per game each of his first three seasons in the league.

In that third season, he appeared to be on the verge of stardom, averaging 21.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks, while shooting 58.3% from the field and 40.1% from 3-point range — albeit in just 41 games.

However, his role in the Hawks’ offense has diminished in subsequent years, with his scoring average declining each of the past three seasons as his usage deteriorated. While he remains an efficient shooter from the field overall (55.1 FG% for his career, and never below 50.8), he was down to just 29.2% on 3s this past season.

The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder also has been injury-prone throughout his career, with his rookie and sixth seasons being the only times in his career he’s reached the 70 games played threshold.

Still, the Jazz have been tied to Collins in trade discussions for the past couple of seasons, and finally found the timing and cost to their liking.

Utah was projected to have around $40 million in salary cap space this coming season — enough to absorb and accommodate the $25.34 million he’s set to make in the 2023-24 season. As a result, the front office braintrust of Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik saw an opportunity to add a talented player they view as a potential rehabilitation project while paying a minimal cost — a player who wasn’t going to be in their rotation anyway, plus a second-round pick that’s all but irrelevant with the haul of future first-rounders they possess.

Atlanta, meanwhile, was looking to shed significant salary, owing to the more onerous financial penalties on the horizon under the new collective bargaining agreement. The Hawks now avoid extreme luxury tax payments and roster-building restrictions, while also setting the table for potential extensions for some of their young core.

The Jazz now have a collection of intriguing frontcourt pieces, with Markkanen coming off the first All-Star appearance of his career and the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, and Walker Kessler earning All-Rookie First Team honors. Kelly Olynyk figures to have his partially-guaranteed contract picked up, given his fit both on the court and in the locker room last season. Meanwhile, the Jazz just spent the No. 9 overall draft pick on Central Florida forward Taylor Hendricks.

Collins’ addition could pave the way for subsequent moves, as well.

Olynyk’s team-friendly contract could, perhaps, be re-routed elsewhere in exchange for a full-fledged point guard. Currently, Talen Horton-Tucker’s future with the team is uncertain, while Collin Sexton may be viewed as best utilized as a microwave scorer off the bench, and Kris Dunn — who is on a fully nonguaranteed deal — could be used in a reserve role.

The 36-year-old Gay is now reunited with Quin Snyder — perhaps not an ideal outcome for a forward who acknowledged hope of landing a bigger role on a team this year, and who now finds his future in the hands of a coach who effectively removed him from the rotation during their time together in Utah.

Gay last season averaged just 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds, while shooting 38% from the field and 25.4% beyond the arc.