The Atlanta Hawks are said to be in “deal-making” mode, per ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, even after making the blockbuster trade sending John Collins to the Utah Jazz in a move largely geared toward getting below the luxury tax threshold.
But they are also in a position to go right back above it if the right move presents itself now or in the future.
“A deal centered on [Paul George] for [Dejounte] Murray and De’Andre Hunter would give the Hawks a second star who might fit better with [Trae] Young while giving the Clippers a wing to replace a little bit of PG’s production and a better setup man for Kawhi Leonard,” wrote Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report on June 28.
George, 33, averaged 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists this past season.
He shot 37.1% from deep on 7.6 attempts per game which would have ranked fifth and first, respectively, on the Hawks this past season.
“Buzz about Paul George potentially being moved picked up a little steam recently,” Bailey notes. “His outside shooting…underrated playmaking (5.3 assists over the last three years) and perimeter defense could go a long way for the Atlanta Hawks.”
Atlanta ranked 22nd in defensive rating and 28th in three-point attempts this past season. Some of that will change naturally under head coach Quin Snyder. His Utah Jazz squads frequented the top 10 in threes taken during his tenure. That includes leading the league in threes taken in his final season at the helm.
But players who can offer consistent offense while also locking down defensively are rare, and players who can do it to George’s level are even rarer.
Why the Atlanta Hawks should reject this trade if offered
George is heading into the final guaranteed season of a four-year, $176.2 million contract with a $48.8 million player option for the 2024-25 campaign. There is a strong possibility that option gets picked up in what would be George’s age 34 season while he has averaged 47 appearances over the last four seasons.
His injury woes have gotten to the point of exasperation for some with the Clippers organization, including executive board member, Jerry West.
Hunter, 25, is the highest draft pick on the Hawks’ roster, though his name has come up in plenty of trade speculation in the lead-up to and fallout after the 2023 NBA Draft. His four-year, $90 million rookie extension that kicks in this year is a big reason why.
The Hawks acquired Murray, 26, in a blockbuster trade just last offseason. It would be quite the about-face to ship him (and Hunter) out in a deal for an aging, expensive star who can be a free agent after next season which is part of the reason Murray would even be in consideration for a deal like this.
While there is an expectation for the Hawks to remain active in the trade market, they should be able to extract greater value out of a package of Hunter and Murray, as talented as George is.