The Atlanta Hawks made one of the summer’s biggest moves when they traded for Dejounte Murray formerly of the San Antonio Spurs. This team was in the Eastern Conference Finals just two seasons ago but they took a massive step back last season falling to the eight-seed and falling into the Play-In Tournament.
They won both of their Play-In matchups but were quickly dispatched from the postseason in five games by the rival Miami Heat.
The move to acquire Murray ensures that the Hawks are not stymied like that again.
But there is some belief that, despite speculation that they are primed for another major move by mid-season, they are already one of the most overlooked teams in the NBA and could be dangerous because of it.
An improved Eastern Conference could have people sleeping on the Atlanta Hawks
Massive blockbuster trades for Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers) – as well as Deandre Ayton and Kevin Durant remaining with their respective teams – overshadowed what was the blockbuster of the offseason when it first happened.
But Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley thinks they may be getting overlooked a bit too much at this point.
“There are some expectations for Atlanta, but nothing huge: Vegas set the over/under at just 45.5 wins. That would be a fine season, but the Hawks could engineer something far greater.”
The projected win total would be just two games better than they had last season and four better than they had in the lead-up to their run to the ECF. That just goes to show how improved the East has gotten in that time.
But the Hawks are a team that is well aware of its strengths and weaknesses.
“The theme for Atlanta’s offseason was defense,” says Buckley. “That’s why trading for Murray made sense. Well, that and his ability to ease some of the offensive burden shouldered by Young, potentially resulting in more efficient versions of both players. If they find their chemistry early and the defense can enter even the midsection of efficiency rankings, then Atlanta just might strike the two-way balance needed to navigate another conference finals run.”
Murray earned his first All-Star nod after leading the NBA in steals per game last season. He has spoken about there being no room for individual goals, only winning this coming season.
Surely the Hawks feel like he should help them win more games – better health will too.
As Buckley points out, the Hawks return the vast majority of the core that made that run to the Eastern Conference Finals. And their additions even beyond Murray have been skewed towards defense in Moe Harkless and Justin Holiday whom they acquired in the Kevin Huerter trade.