NBA Trade Rumors: Should the Rockets pass or pursue John Collins?

N.B. Lindberg
Atlanta Hawks Media Day
Atlanta Hawks Media Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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Why the Rockets should pursue John Collins

The dirty truth of the NBA is that talent wins games. Look no further than the Rockets. They have one of the least talented rosters and are a half-game from the worst record in the league. Is their roster full of players with potential? Yes, but this roster has few real impact players as of right now. 

John Collins, for all his faults, is an immensely talented player. This is a player who has averaged 18.2 points per game on a 59.8% effective field goal percentage with a 21.9% usage rate over the past five seasons. This season, ten players have a usage rate between 21.4% and 22.4% and also qualify for the scoring title. One player, Buddy Hield, at 18.8 points per game, is averaging more than Collins’ 18.2 points per game, and the average is 13.4 points per game. 

Hield, over 13 games, with the highest effective field goal percentage of his career, is essentially matching the scoring to usage rate ratio that Collins has posted over the past 234 games. That’s preposterous, and it raises questions as to why the Hawks seem so bent on moving off of him. 

The Hawks’ motives likely have little to do with Collins himself and much more to do with hitching their wagon to Trae Young, the patron saint of the worst defense you will ever see. Young is one of the five to ten best offensive players in the league, but his utterly shambolic defending forces you to make significant roster compromises. 

The Hawks didn’t target Clint Capela to marginalize Collins. They targeted Capela because they needed an elite rim-protecting center to make up for the fact that Trae Young is a traffic cone with male-pattern baldness. 

The Rockets would be crazy not to target a player of Collins’ talent, especially considering how team-friendly his contract is. Collins is owed $23.5 million this season, $25.34 million in 2023-24, and $26.58 million in 2024-25, before a $26.58 million player option in 2025-26. None of those salaries project to take up even 20% of the salary cap.  

A straight swap of Eric Gordon for Collins works from a salary perspective, and going from Gordon at age 34 to Collins at age 25 is the biggest no-brainer in the history of the sport. Would adding Collins cause a frontcourt roster crunch? Absolutely, but having too many talented players is a lot better than not having any talent at all. 

In a larger offensive role, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Collins averaging close to 25 points per game on good efficiency and providing the Rockets with a real lob threat in the pick-and-roll. For as good as Alperen Sengun has been, he doesn’t add a vertical threat to the Rockets' offense.