Schultz: Hawks’ salary dump for John Collins is an embarrassing culmination of the past three years

After weeks of trying to quell narratives that they were about to dump their paycheck to get rid of the NBA luxury tax and that John Collins didn’t fit into their future, the Falcons dumped the paycheck and John Collins. Go and deduce.

There will be different levels of great spins about what happened Monday, but at least this franchise is finally acknowledging the reality of his actions, and Collins can move on with trying to fix his career.

“Free at last,” Collins’ uncle and confidante, Chris Pruden, wrote.

Before we get into the economic ramifications of Atlanta’s first major move in this offseason, and what we can assume going forward, a word about Collins. He was coming off the worst career season since becoming a full-time player—13.1 points a game, 29.2 percent on 3-point shooting—and becoming a target for many fans and some in the media, in part due to the ongoing commercial drama of the deadlines. His production did not rise to the level of his $125 million five-year contract.

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But there has been some revisionist history about it. Just a few years ago, Collins was lauded for being a consistent 20-and-10 offensive player and great play with Trae Young, as well as being one of the most loved and respected players indoors. When feelings changed in the front office about where Collins would fit in the team’s future, there were repeated attempts to trade him over the next few years, but his value fell and the potential return on assets was deemed unacceptable, either through management or ownership.

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It was a colossal miscalculation. Because Collins, who was undoubtedly worn out by everything and given a diminished role in attack last season, had a miserable year and his value continued to crumble, like a three-sleeve shirt off a faulty dressing table.

Collins welcomes the new beginning. The fact that he didn’t show up for exit interviews the day after their season-ending loss to the Celtics was illustration enough of how over Atlanta he was and wanted to move on. It’s hard not to have some sympathy for him.

It was the culmination of rumors the past three seasons were embarrassing. think about it. The Hawks traded Collins — still talented, defensively strong, and young at 25 — for 37-year-old Rudy Gay (whom they may not be holding) and a second-round draft pick. As for how valuable the Falcons are in second-round picks, they’ve traded five of them – five! – to your friend.

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It was a dump worthy of all extremes: DUMP. They are a lower team today. The pressure is on General Manager Landry Fields and this new front office to improve the roster while gaining payroll flexibility. As he admitted the athlete After the draft, “It’s going to take a while.” Improvement will depend on Quinn Snyder’s training.

From a financial perspective, it’s easy to understand why trading Collins was the right choice. His salary of $25.34 million for 2023-24 — compared to the $6.479 million owed to the gay — is off the books and gets the team out of luxury tax hell. Collins owed at least $51.92 million over the next two seasons and $78.5 million if he exercises his player option in 2025.

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It does not make financial sense for a team to cross the luxury tax threshold of $165 million if the decision makers do not believe the club will compete for the title. Something you won’t see or hear in any Hawks 2023-24 marketing campaign: The Hawks don’t expect to compete for a championship next season.

This is not ripping. But it reset. Even with the tax pressure eased, they’ll continue to consider trade options with at least two veterans in the rotation: quarterback Clint Capela and forward DeAndre Hunter. The Collins trade will also net them a one-year $25 million trade exemption. No one should assume that they will be used.

If you’re looking for a little more certainty about what the Falcons think of next season, here’s a head start:

• Not surprisingly, but goalkeeper Dejounte Murray is almost certainly not going anywhere. Several teams have contacted about his availability but there have been indications for weeks that he is well liked by Fields and Snyder. It’s also extremely unlikely that the Hawks will get enough assets in return to match what they gave up last summer (including two unprotected first-round draft picks).

All three draft picks — Kobe Bufkin, Muhammad Joy and Seth Lundy — said Monday that Murray contacted them immediately after the draft with congratulations and advice. No one was surprised, least of all from Fields. “I read that as a huge character trait for Digonte Murray,” he said Monday.

When asked if those traits affected whether to keep Murray, Fields said, “I want Dejounte here. This is a guy who’s got a lot that we’re trying to build more with. Look at that and go, that’s what he’s always done, even from the day we traded In it…. I told (the teams) he’s a guy we want to continue building with.” The risk: Murray is not likely to sign an extension before testing the free agent market.

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• Collins’ exit is likely to mean more minutes for Jalen Johnson and AJ Griffin, pending other roster moves. This fits with the plan of shedding some of the salary while molding younger, less expensive players into a close-knit winning team.

Winning next season depends largely on how well Young, Murray and others adapt Snyder and his system in the manager’s first full season. If all goes well, there may be short-term success. But to be clear, no one should view Collins’ exit as adding with subtracting. It’s just a subtraction.

(Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

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