This is setting up to be a big season for the Atlanta Hawks whose offseason moves have left them poised to make another splash move to better the roster or, if things go awry next season, pivot into the next iteration.
If Dejounte Murray has anything to say about it, they will almost certainly be closer to the former.
“Best NBA SZN OTW,” Murray shared in an Instagram post on July 19. “Starving. Prove Myself Right Type Of Timing.”
Murray, 26, is coming off averaging 20.5 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.3 rebounds and shot 34.4% on a career-high 5.2 threes per game. He and Trae Young became the first set of teammates to average at least 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the 90s Chicago Bulls.
The Hawks were inconsistent as a whole on the season, as evidenced by their 41-41 record, which could be expected from a team that changed not only the coaching staff but also the power structure and voices in the front office before that.
Murray spoke on dealing with the tumultuous campaign.
A campaign that, for what it’s worth, saw the Hawks finish two games above .500 at 38-36 when he was in the lineup.
“Obviously coming to Atlanta it was another challenge,” Murray said via the Hawks’ YouTube channel on April 28. “That’s the kind of person I am. I want all challenges. I don’t want nothing easy. I feel like adversity will really build you, whether it’s on or off the floor. And that’s pretty much what I can say about that.”
Atlanta was three games over .500 at 35-32 when Murray and Young were active and their starting lineup – consisting of Murray, Young, Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, and former Hawks John Collins – ranked in the 86th percentile with a plus-6.0 net rating, per Cleaning The Glass.
Murray is locked in after inking a four-year, $120 million contract extension while Young is under contract through at least the 2025 season.
Capela and Hunter have been mired in trade rumors but they’re Hawks until they aren’t.
Replacing John Collins key for Atlanta Hawks
Collins’ absence created a void the Hawks have tried to fill with Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam via trade but to no avail. Rumors that began to swirl in earnest before the 2023 NBA Draft have slowed as more teams have joined pursuit according to reports but the NBA has entered a quiet part of the calendar.
For the record, the Hawks were 37-34 with Collins last season and 4-7 without. So finding a suitable replacement should remain a priority since the results with the Hawks’ in-house replacements were less than encouraging last season.
Fourth-year forward Saddiq Bey, 24, averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists while shooting 40% from deep in 25 appearances with the Hawks drawing seven starts.
He averaged 13.8 points, 5.1 boards, and 1.8 assists in those starts.
But the Hawks posted a minus-3.2 net rating in the 111 qualifying possessions in place of Collins. And things were worse with third-year forward Jalen Johnson, 21, who offers the requisite size and averaged 5.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists across 70 appearances with six starts (8.0/6.3/2.3) this past season.
However, the Hawks posted an abysmal minus-71.2 net rating when he was in place of Collins alongside the remaining four starters. His saving grace is that all of those contests came under former head coach Nate McMillan.
Johnson, Murray, Young, and even outside voices have noted the influence Quin Snyder had in his short time with the team.
Both Bey and Johnson are young enough to expect some level of progression next season.
It might be too presumptive to assume they can easily replace Collins in the starting lineup, though, and the Hawks continued rumored pursuit of Siakam could be an indication the Hawks don’t believe either is quite ready.