The Atlanta Hawks traded for Dejounte Murray because they needed another star and, specifically, a playmaker alongside Trae Young; a lesson learned from a gentleman’s sweep the most recent postseason. But if what they saw in the preseason opener is any indication, the Hawks (and fans) got all that they bargained for and then some.
Atlanta played its first preseason contest in Abu Dhabi against the Milwaukee Bucks – a rematch of the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.
It felt like the Hawks were treating it as such, too.
They took the lead for good early in the second quarter and never looked back behind strong efforts from their starting group including Murray who fell just one assist and two rebounds away from a triple-double in his unofficial Hawks debut.
Dejounte Murray celebrates victory with a shoutout to Atlanta Hawks teammates
Murray racked up 25 points in a little over 30 minutes of action. His nine assists and eight boards put on paper what the tape will show: Murray was all over the place proving how well he has already been integrated into the mix of a group that has otherwise been together for the last two seasons.
He also finished as a plus-10, the third-highest mark on the team and second-best among the starters behind John Collins.
After the game, Murray took to social media to share a short but powerful message.
That might not seem like much. But Murray has alluded to not always feeling that way while he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs who drafted him with the 29th-overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Murray spent the first five years of his career there, earning his first All-Star selection last season after leading the NBA in steals per game.
He is the perfect fit next to Young on paper.
The only question that existed was how they would fit together as two ball-dominant players in a system that had previously struggled to feature anyone outside of Young. Those questions may still exist after this game since it was the first game for both teams. The results are encouraging nonetheless.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing was, after Young played the entire first quarter, he was on the bench to begin the second, a recipe for near-diaster for the Hawks in the past.
Now, though, Murray remained on to keep thing humming.
The Hawks ended the first quarter trailing by one point down 33-32. By the time Young re-entered the fray, they led 52-48 with Murray about to head to the line for a pair of free throws on the next possession.
It is a small swing in the Hawks’ favor, yes. But it could be huge for a team that was already one of the best in one-possession games last season with a record of 7-3.