The Atlanta Hawks traded for Dejounte Murray with the expectation that he would be the second banana to Trae Young. Additionally, the Hawks expect Murray to be a perfect fit right next to Young. While it looks like both of those things are true on paper, will those things be confirmed on court?
Murray goes into this season off his first All-Star appearance. While he always seemed to be a good facilitator and fantastic defender, he really unleashed his scoring potential last year. Last year, Murray averaged 21 points per game on 46 percent shooting. He was the best player on a Spurs team that made the play-in this year.
It really seemed like he turned from an above-average starting point guard to an All-Star last year. It even seemed like he was somewhat of an All-NBA type player at times last year. At the end of last year, the Spurs wanted to go into a rebuild, and Murray was on the trading block because he was too good to be on a rebuilding team.
How the Atlanta Hawks landed Dejounte Murray.
In what seemed like a bidding war between several teams, the Hawks traded three first-round picks (2023 Hornets first-round pick; that is lottery protected, the Hawks 2025 first-round pick, a swap in 2026, and the Hawks 2027 first-round pick) for Murray. Additionally, the Hawks traded Danilo Gallinari, but he was just added for salary purposes.
While many Hawks fans were happy about the Hawks acquiring Murray, fans and analysts around the league questioned the picks they gave up. While Murray is undoubtedly worth a premium, many fans/analysts thought giving an unprotected first-round pick in 2027 was a little much. If Murray can fit as he should on paper and give the Hawks a good secondary option to funnel the offense through, then it was definitely worth it.
On defense, look for Murray to get the primary guard assignment. Young isn’t a great defender, and Murray will help with that. On offense, look for Murray to help out young when he gets blitzed and take away some of the ball-handler/creating duties on offense. One of Murray/Young should always be on the court. If things all go to plan/no major injuries happen to either player, Murray or Young should be the primary ball-handler in any half-court offense.
While Murray will provide the Hawks with a noticeable improvement, the Hawks might still be unable to escape the play-in round. The East is loaded with great teams. The Bucks, Heat, Raptors, Sixers, Nets (even with all of their issues in the offseason), and Celtics (even despite recent news) should be the top 6 seeds in some order.
While I could see the Hawks being in the top six seeds with a jump from Young or Murray (or someone else, but if it’s gonna come from someone, probably one of those two), most likely, they will have to settle for the play-in again.
The Hawks should make the play-in. While it is a one-game six months from now, and we have an entire season to go, I would expect the Hawks to make the actual playoff easily because of Murray’s addition. Although the Hawks will improve a lot and Murray and Young will probably be a match in heaven, was giving up all those picks worth it to just make the play-in again in year 1?
While it is a dumb question to ask, it will most likely be a question that Murray will have to answer this season. The only way I see that question not being raised is if Murray goes from an all-star/fringe all-NBA type player to an actual all-NBA type player. While he is a perfect fit for Young, the question of whether Murray can increase his offensive output will answer where the Hawks will finish in the standings this year.