‘Tis the season, Bulls fans. With NBA free agency starting Thursday at 5:00 PM CDT, rumors are swirling all over the place. If there is one thing we have learned during Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley’s tenures leading the Chicago Bulls, it’s that they play their cards close to their chests. As a result, any time there is a possible fit for the Bulls, Chicago is linked to him. This time around, Atlanta Hawks’ forward John Collins is back in the discussion.
Matt Moore of Action Network touched on the topic in his recent piece on free agency and trade rumors. This is not the first time Collins has been linked to the Bulls. He’s been frustrated with his role in Atlanta, and the Bulls desperately need impact players in their frontcourt. But making a trade work between the two teams is complicated.
The Bulls are preparing to offer Zach LaVine the max when free agency opens, and any deal would very likely have to include Nikola Vucevic to make salary work if they want to keep the rest of the core intact. There is no indication the Hawks are interested in Vucevic; moreover, the Bulls are tight on draft capital to throw in, too.
The fit in Chicago for John Collins is there… kind of. Collins is a great stretch four. In the 2021-22 season, he put up 16.2 PPG on 52.6% shooting and 36.4% shooting from three. His 61.0 TS% was top-30 in the NBA. Also, Collins can rebound the ball pretty well. His 13.9% TRB last season ranked 35th in the NBA. For comparison, Vucevic posted an 18.7% TRB, good for 11th in the NBA.
Still, Collins’s defense is not what Chicago needs. Last season, Collins put up a DBPM of exactly 0, which was below Vucevic (albeit by .1). Collins’s DWS like him even less. There, he ranks 164th in the NBA with a 1.4. Other Bulls’ reported targets, such as Orlando’s Mo Bamba, project to add much more defensive aid to a Bulls’ frontcourt that desperately needs it.
So… Do We Buy It?
I’d put the BS meter on this one as pretty high up there. While it sounds flashy to add a 24-year-old forward who can score and rebound — and the Chicago Bulls need frontcourt help as much as any team in the NBA — the risk/reward does not make sense.
The Bulls would be paying Collins an average of $25 million per season (it escalates each year, by the way) while they have Vucevic for one more season at $22 million. Once they shed his salary, even with LaVine on a max deal, they will have cap space to add a decent amount of talent to their core.
In the end, we will have to wait and see. However, for my John Collins/Bulls fans out there, I recommend not holding your breath too much.
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