Timberwolves

John Collins Is A Rosas Player

Photo Credit: Jerome Miron (USA TODAY Sports)

In the past week, reports have surfaced that Gersson Rosas and the Minnesota Timberwolves are “dying” to trade for Atlanta Hawks power forward John Collins.

That makes sense.

Collins is considered one of the best young offensive power forwards in the league. He consistently plays above the rim on pick-and-roll dives and dump-downs. He can step outside on pops to space the floor at a very high rate. He also has other accoutrements to his game that allow him to take advantage of smaller players in the post as well as a solid enough off-the-dribble game to face up or iso onto slower players.

His fit in the offense is easy to imagine: running a floor-spacing and pick-and-roll/pop platoon with Karl-Anthony Towns, with one spacing while the other sets the screens based on who has the more favorable matchup. The Timberwolves could also run lineups that include two bonafide floor-spacing bigs, something that very few teams in the NBA could do. It would sure make life easier on Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell.

So it’s logical that Rosas would be interested in Collins. But there are other reasons that it makes sense as well.

Let’s start here: Just in the case of DeAndre Ayton, Collins is currently in his fourth season, has never played for a team that is much of a winner, and will likely command a max contract or near-max contract this summer. In fact, this season, Collins left an extension offer of more than $90 million on the table.

Even assuming that the Wolves are able to get him for the once-rejected $90 million deal — and if Rosas trades for Collins, this is an incredibly conservative number — this is another player who will get very expensive very quickly. Then you have to actually start parsing through exactly what downsides the Timberwolves would be willingly taking on.

For starters, Collins’ defensive effort is more inconsistent than warm St. Paul days in March. Yes, his effort has been noticeably better since Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was replaced with the more defensive-minded Nate McMillan. But issues still persist, and it’s not exactly the precedent that you would like to set for a player of Collins’ age or athletic ability — that he’ll turn it on or off considering how much he likes the coach. And for the majority of his career, it’s been off.

Collins has been spotty off the court, too. There is the issue of the 25-game suspension due to a failed drug test at the beginning of last year. More troublingly, only eight games into the season Collins was complaining about his perceived lack of touches in the offense after the Hawks had made splashy free-agent signings for Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Rajon Rondo.

It was asinine. Collins was averaging 16 FGAs per 36 minutes played, a mark that was only 2.2 less than Hawks superstar Trae Young (who is responsible for most of Collins’ easiest looks), and 2.3 more than the third-highest player on the team.

It was also conceited because Collins was (and still is) getting more precedence in the offense than Gallinari, a player who came with an almost a decade of proven prestige as a winning player. Atlanta ended up graciously slotting Gallinari as a bench player, seemingly without a competition, in favor of the imperfect Collins.

To be honest, I don’t really give a crap whether an NBA player dabbles in drug use. If you’re a professional on the court, you’re not failing drug tests, and especially if you’re a proven winning player, whatever, live your life as long as you’re not hurting others. But that’s the rub here. Collins is failing drug tests. Collins isn’t being professional on the court. Collins hasn’t proven that his stats aren’t empty. In fact, he appears to care more about his stats than his team starting off the year strong despite limited contributions and availability from the big-money veterans who were brought in to help make a playoff push.

To start talking about your lot on the team when you’re seated directly to the right of the king is an awful look — especially when that team is basically giving you all the runway they can to get you paid in restricted free agency, and there might be the first real glimpse of upward momentum for the Hawks in almost half a decade.

In fact, I think it’s not just a bad look. I think it’s a huge red flag when all of it is viewed together.

And I think this is a red flag for Rosas, too, because this is a pattern of behavior in his guys:

  • Expensive, or about to be expensive
  • No defense
  • Potentially empty stats

Almost every single one of his big veteran additions has checked all three of these boxes. In fact, I would argue that the only one who didn’t, Ricky Rubio, subbed in poor shooting in lieu of empty stats, although he does defend.

I don’t know what Rosas is going for here. The Brooklyn Nets have been able to pull off an all-offense, no-defense approach, sure. But they knew they were building around three MVPs and/or championship-winning stars. Comparing Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving to KAT, DLo, and John Collins feels like a really absurd version of the “We have ______ at home” meme.

If this was a winning team with a proven track record and a strong identity and culture, and the window might be closing, perhaps I would feel differently about this potential trade. But with the team’s current outlook, this just feels like another DLo trade waiting to happen, and one that would be completely unforced. There is no Andrew Wiggins who needs to be moved.

It shouldn’t be a hot take to point out that the Timberwolves have the worst record in the NBA, yet the seventh-highest payroll.

Also, on the matter of power forwards, didn’t the team just trade for another fourth-year, no-defense, about-to-enter-RFA power forward? Didn’t they just sign him to a three-year, $21 million contract, with the first two years fully guaranteed? Isn’t that guy now looking like a replacement-level player?

I’m not saying that you can compare the offensive games of Collins and Juancho Hernangomez. But I sure as heck would have a lot more confidence in Rosas’ ability to know what he’s getting in Collins if he didn’t completely bungle a similar archetype of a player last season.

I am losing faith that the President of Basketball Operations doesn’t have anything to do with that. I have been asking what the plan is since Day 1 of the Rosas era. Now it’s now Day 688 and I’m still asking what the plan is.

Ddding John Collins would, at best, insinuate that there is only a plan on one end of the court. And it’s an expensive plan.

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