We have fireworks, folks!
Our first star trade of the offseason cycle is here, with
All-Star guard Dejounte Murray joining fellow stud Trae Young in
Atlanta. The Hawks will be sending Danilo Gallinari in the deal
but, with all due respect, that isn't the important portion for the
San Antonio Spurs. They wanted pick equity and got it. The Hawks
are sending three first-round picks — a protected 2023 pick via the
Charlotte Hornets and their own unprotected first-rounders in 2025
and 2027 — as well as swapping firsts in 2026.
The Spurs' thinking is obvious, even if you disagree with their
They want to reset, and moving Murray now was convenient for
them. It helps them drop their win total next season ahead of a
heralded draft class. On the financial side, moving Murray while
he's on a bargain deal — he's owed
roughly $34 million total over the next two seasons — and
ahead of extension talks (technically eligible later this summer)
allowed them to flip him at peak value.
As ESPN's Zach Lowe notes, teams are
pretty hesitant to flip deep-in-the-future firsts with no
protections at all. It was a compromise the Hawks had to make
considering Murray's talent, his contract and their desire to keep
pieces like John Collins (bless his heart), De'Andre Hunter or even
new draftee AJ Griffin out of the deal.
WHAT HE BRINGS
It's hard not to think about what this deal means for the Hawks'
defense, first and foremost.
At his best, Murray is one of the NBA's premier options at the
point of attack. His quick hands and limitless wingspan allow him
to envelop opposing guards. He's even more of a menace off the
ball, as his cornerback-like instincts work in tandem with his
physical tools to create turnovers. Lazy passes and loose handles
aren't safe when Murray's around.
Last season, Murray wasn't at his best often — a natural
trade-off to the offensive burden he carried — and he
still managed to lead the NBA in steals (2.0, 138
total) and deflections (4.0, 278 total). It's a testament to the
kind of havoc he can cause. In theory, we should see a more
consistent version of Demon Dejounte with less responsibility on
offense (more on that later).
The beauty of the Hawks' maintaining their core roster pieces in
the deal is that Murray is truly an additive. Hunter is still on
the roster to pick up tough wing assignments. Now, instead of Kevin
Huerter taking on the guard assignments — and he was mostly
fine last year for a guy punching above his weight —
Murray can do it.
Offensively, Murray gives Atlanta some much needed juice as a
secondary creator. He did a ton for the Spurs last
season, posting career-highs in points (21.1, 20th in the NBA),
assists (9.2, fourth), usage rate (27.3) and touches per game
(87.5, fourth). His 53.3% True Shooting percentage was also the
highest of his career, but it was well below league average (56.6).
Murray did his best as The Guy, but he isn't quite on that
Playing alongside Young means he doesn't have to be. And for
Young, he finally has a teammate who can take some of the creation
burden off his plate.
The drop-off between Young and the rest of his teammates last
season was stark. Young wasn't just the only player on the roster
who could create for himself and others at a high level, he was the
only guy who could get two feet in the paint on a
consistent basis — or even tried to.
Consider this: Young led the Hawks, and ranked fourth in the NBA among qualified
players, with 17.3 drives per game. Bogdan Bogdanovic was
second on the team at 6.5. Young took 300 shots at the rim during
the regular season; Hunter (146), Bogdanovic (105) and Huerter
(101) took 352 combined.
Murray attacked the basket (17.9 drives) and took more shots at
the rim (306) than Young did last season. His ability to do that
should make life easier on Young, and allow him to play off the
When I say that, or when anyone says that, don't assume Young
will start flying off of staggers or setting screens like he's Stephen
Curry. It would be a welcome change, and Young has the skill
set to do it, but that shouldn't be the expectation. Think smaller
The Hawks didn't get much as you'd think out of Young being used
as a spacer. Part of that is Young not doing the whole relocating
thing — that's on him, and it's something he needs to commit to.
But the other part is on the roster context, and that brings us
back to the rim pressure issue. Who, among the Hawks' cast, could
get into the paint and force rotations and create catch-and-shoot
opportunities for Young?
Murray should help with that.
Murray should help the Hawks on offense, but that doesn't mean
the fit will be seamless.
He shouldn't have the ball in his hands all the time, but the
off-ball reps could get iffy. Murray has gotten more comfortable
firing from deep, but he isn't particularly good at it. He shot
just 32.7% from deep last season, including a 34.5% clip on
Teams will help off of Murray when he doesn't have it. He'll
have to prove that he can take advantage of the gaps he'll see,
either by cashing home more jumpers or by chewing up that space
It wasn't pretty last season. Murray generated 0.96 points per
possession when facing a closeout, 128th among 142 players to face
at least 350 closeouts, per Second Spectrum. Some of that is the
shaky jumper, but there's also a level of conservation in his game.
It explains his sterling assist-to-turnover ratio for a guy with
his usage, but the lack of decisiveness can stall out
He can't be a shaky shooter and a
hold-and-scan guy, especially alongside Young. Having a true No. 1
option to knock Murray down in the hierarchy should be a good
thing, but only if he's able to capitalize on those openings.
Even on the ball, I'd argue there's room for him to turn up the
aggression. It's telling that a guy who had that many touches, ran
as many ball-screens as he did and racked up as many assists as he
did only logged 99 skip passes all year long, per Second Spectrum.
That ranked 37th in the league. And of 62 players to throw at least
75 skips, only four players have a shorter average pass distance
In less nerdy terms: Stashing Young on the weak side will only
have as much juice as Murray allows it to. Dial it up, young
Overall, it's hard not to like this for the Hawks. They went
into the summer hoping to get a second star alongside Young, and
they did it. It's not the perfect fit, but you can't always choose
the star you want. Luckily, time is on their side. Young and Murray
will be 24 and 26 respectively when the season starts. There's room
for them to grow into one of the most dynamic pairings in the
I'd argue they're starting from a good place already.