The former San Antonio Spurs guard has spoken about making the transition from being the lead guard there and moving back off the ball with the Hawks.
But, in the aftermath of the 2023 NBA Draft, Murray was leading the way reaching out to Hawks’ rookie first-round pick Kobe Bufkin as he made his way to the team facilities for his introductory press conference.
“Congratulations,” Murray told Bufkin in a video chat on June 24. “I’m in Vegas bro. I’m gonna be here the whole time you guys is here. So I’m just waiting on ya’ll to get out here…So, enjoy the whole process, bro. Enjoy it all, soak it in. Like I told you, you know it’s work time…I’ll be right here, dog. I’ll be waiting on you.”
Bufkin, the No. 15 overall pick out of the University of Michigan, arrives after averaging 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists while shooting 48.2% overall and 35.5% from deep as a sophomore for the Wolverines.
There is some thought that his future could ultimately be as a replacement for Murray who is heading into the final year of a four-year, $64 million contract.
Due to league rules, an extension could cost Murray $17 million in Year 1.
Murray, 26, averaged 20.5 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 34.4% on 5.2 threes – a career-high – in his first season with the 41-41 Hawks who were 38-36 with him in the lineup. Despite those challenges, Murray has long embraced his role as a leader for the team and has kept it going with Bufkin.
“Be ready to go,” Murray said.
Bufkin also spoke about how he will function alongside both Murray and Trae Young next season.
“Definitely play from Dejounte,” Bufkin said, per Brad Rowland of Locked on Hawks. “He’s a fierce defender, long arms, enjoys defending the ball. That’s kind of how he got his start. As far as Trae being a primary ball handler…I believe at Michigan, I showed that I can be on or off the ball, and do it at a high level.
I’m looking forward to playing with those guys.”
Atlanta Hawks rookie to “sooner rather than later”, says GM Landry Fields
“He could probably be pretty rangey with his athletic ability and defensive ability,” Hawks general manager Landry Fields said on draft night, per atlhawksfans on YouTube. “Even the floor as a player, with where he’s at today…he’ll be a guy that plays sooner rather than later.”
With the last year’s top backup point guard Aaron Holiday a free agent and backup swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic getting up in age and accumulating injuries, another body was needed.
Bufkin’s ability to float between both backcourt spots should do wonders for the Hawks.
They were 3-6 without Young and 3-5 without Murray in the starting lineup this past season. A rookie isn’t changing that all on his own but he could be a better all-around option than Holiday who was limited positionally and could be a liability on defense at his size, though he was a solid defender.