It was a shock when the Atlanta Hawks trade for Dejounte Murray first went down. It had been reported by multiple people that the Hawks were trying to pull off a big trade, that they were trying to get a co-star to pair with superstar Trae Young. He had come off a brilliant season that ended in disappointment, a shellacking at the hands of the Miami Heat.
Young was not particularly good in that series, and while it exposed some nasty warts in his game, the Hawks came away with another takeaway. They simply weren’t good enough to compete with the titans of the league.
On a Wednesday evening, right before the NBA free agency was about to start, the Hawks pulled off the blockbuster trade.
They traded away three first-round picks, a draft swap, and Danilo Gallinari for Murray. The Hawks got their all-star guard to pair with Young instantly forming one of the best backcourts in the league.
Dejounte Murray’s brilliance on full display to start the season for the Atlanta Hawks
Well, eight games into the season and Murray’s value has been in full force all season long, with it culminating in his gem of a performance in a game where the Hawks badly needed it to win the game. They were down to the Knicks, down 23 points, struggling to find an offensive spark in a game where Young was both struggling and eventually injured and sent to the locker room. Murray stepped up and delivered.
The score was 53-28 and Murray ignited scoring 15 points, dishing out three assists, and racking up three steals, cutting the lead down to eight points. In the third quarter, the rest of the Hawks’ offense woke up and they went on a scoring blitz, outscoring the Knicks 32-10 in the third quarter alone, and they never looked back.
Jalen Brunson was asked postgame, what was the reason for all the Knicks’ loose ball turnovers. His answer was succinct and simple.
Every offensive play by the Knicks, he was a menace flying through passing lanes, harassing their guards at the point of attack, their offense was struggling to do anything against him. For a defense that was as bad as the Hawks was last year, he’s almost singlehandedly boosted it. The Hawks’ starting lineup’s defensive rating is 103.5. Last season it was 103.5 with virtually the same players except for Murray instead of Bogdan Bogdanovic. That’s not a knock on Bogdanovic on that end, but more so just about how good Murray has been.
Beyond the defense, he just adds so much more to their offense. The Hawks struggled to create anything on offense when Young was not there, and now that’s not the case at all. Murray can more than be trusted to run the offense without Young and he does that very well. They’ve even been able to let Young relax a bit in close games because Murray can more than be trusted to score in those big moments. It’s been a boon for head coach Nate McMillan and for Young because he finally has someone he can trust in big moments.
He’s turned the Hawks from a team that was in the Play-In Tournament last season to a team that is fighting to avoid it altogether.
While their past roster was hingeing on becoming eternally mediocre, good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to make any noise, Dejounte was a splash move. One that raised their ceiling and gave the Hawks yet another chess piece to build a title contender around.
While they might not be there yet, they most certainly have the backcourt around which they can build a title roster around.