Atlanta Hawks risk ‘doing it wrong’ with star duo’s minutes

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Hawks trade for Dejounte Murray has been mostly well received. But some are urging them to be smart about it due to the “awkward fit” between Murray and Trae Young. On the high end, some have deemed the trade the “move of the summer”. Others, meanwhile, have been critical of the price the Hawks paid to the San Antonio Spurs.

Atlanta sent unprotected first-round picks in 2025 and 2027, and agreed to a pick swap in 2026, to San Antonio.

Murray checks a couple of boxes as a second star and playmaker as well as bringing defense.

But how well will a Murray-Young backcourt play together? Perhaps the best bet would be for head coach Nate McMillan to stagger the duo’s floortime to solve what has been an underlying issue for some time.

Trae Young and Dejounte Murray might be better off having their minutes staggered

That is the scenario laid out by “Locked on Hawks” host Brad Rowland and his guest, Josh Lloyd of “Locked on Fantasy Basketball”. Both Rowland and Lloyd agreed that playing both dynamic guards together for the majority of the game would be “doing it wrong”. The thing is that McMillan has been prone to wholesale lineup changes.

Perhaps, with a playmaker such as Murray, that will change. But even his plan to get Young off of the ball more comes with a bit of a warning.

“The thing I have with Dejounte Murray”, began Llloyd, “I feel that…there is a significant level of overrating happening with him. And, he had a great season last season. There’s no doubt about that. But he did it for one year on a team that had torn everything down and said, ‘you are just going to do everything.’”

Lloyd went on to describe how Murray’s statistical boom came with a jump in his usage rate and does not necessarily portend future success.

“When he played with other guys who had the ball in their hand or needed the ball in their hand, it was fine. He was nowhere near the All-Star level that he was – and even last year he was really a fringe All-Star and got in as an injury replacement…and how he fits with Trae, I still have a lot of questions.”

Rowland said Lloyd’s assessment was “reasonable” but added that, despite Murray’s All-Star credentials, it was something else that drew the Hawks to him.

“It was more about the way he that kind of checks all the boxes for the Hawks…They kept saying over and over again, ‘We want a guy who can handle the ball and also defend at the point of attack.’ And he’s the A-plus version of that.”

Rowland admitted there are still questions about Murray’s jumper but says that it is still more about what Murray can do on the floor than it is the All-Star status.

Lloyd agreed Murray will solidify the defense at the point of attack and that the Hawks needed a playmaker. But he notes that, on top of their respective numbers likely taking a hit, the common notion coming out of this deal could be a flawed one.

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Many, including McMillan, have referenced Stephen Curry and that Young should look to play off the ball more.

“Why would you want to do that? Dejounte Murray is a worse playmaker, a worse passer, a worse shooter than what Trae is…Defensively I think it’s awesome. Offensively, I’m not really sure because I feel like Dejounte needs the ball in his hands to be successful.”

Lloyd acknowledged that everything running through Young did not serve the Hawks well in the playoffs against the Miami Heat.

He still contends that opting for Murray as the facilitator over Young would be “doing it wrong”.

Rowland says they should “sprinkle” in the off-ball stuff for Young and stick with what works.

“You don’t want to make Trae an off-ball player…You want him to be able to do that. He’s the guy who can shoot at a high level of the two…The worst thing you could possibly do is not run pick-and-roll with Trae Young…he’s incredible at that. And you can’t take the ball out of his hands.”

To his credit, McMillan has been very clear that he will not be taking the ball out of Young’s hands completely.

“That’s 29 [points] and 9 [assists”,] the coach said during summer league.

Lloyd had one last bit of caution for all of the optimism surrounding the Hawks’ new dynamic backcourt duo, particularly when it comes to Murray’s playmaking.

“You go back and look at all his past seasons. He wasn’t ever that guy until he became literally the only option for them and then he was producing those numbers…the problem that’s going to be really tricky here for Nate McMillan is, if you make Dejounte Murray in the Kevin Huerter role, he can’t shoot. He’s not that level of shooter. And then, if you put Trae Young in the Kevin Huerter role, he’s not going to touch the ball enough.”

This is an embarrassment of riches for McMillan than it is a burden. But it will take some very tactful dispersion of time on the ball and, likely, on the floor.

What the Hawks cannot afford to do is make one of the most dominant players in the NBA less so in any way. That is not their plan and this move is no different. If it works as it has this summer, the Hawks could find themselves fighting for another Eastern Conference Finals berth.

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However, it is wise to remember that the pairing working is far from a given.