Hawks land former top-5 pick as final piece of Dejounte Murray trade

The Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans' trade centered around Dejounte Murray has been finalized with all active players involved now known.
Dejounte Murray, Atlanta Hawks
Dejounte Murray, Atlanta Hawks / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

The Atlanta Hawks’ trade sending Dejounte Murray to the New Orleans Pelicans was finalized on Saturday, July 6. The deal had already been agreed upon but could not be made official until then, with the league’s moratorium ending. There were still loose ends to tie up, too.

The Pelicans were short of meeting financial obligations, as first noted by ESPN’s Bobby Marks who said he expected another player to be folded into the deal

That player is center Cody Zeller.

“Cody Zeller is being signed-and-traded to the Atlanta Hawks from the New Orleans Pelicans, as part of the Dejounte Murray trade, a league source told @spotrac,” Spotrac’s Keith Smith reported on X on July 6.

Zeller, 31, was the No. 4 overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats. He spent the first eight seasons of his career with Charlotte who became the Hornets (again) in 2014.

A 7-footer, he offers some rim protection and can even hit the occasional triple.

He shot 33.3% from beyond the arc last season, all on catch-and-shoot opportunities. However, that came on three attempts all season. 

Zeller has never shot as high as 28% from deep in any season with at least 20 attempts.

He averaged 1.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in seven minutes per game across 30 appearances for the Pelicans last season. Zeller has also spent time with the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers.

Notably, whatever Zeller’s contract number is, the deal is for at least three years as is mandatory in sign-and-trades.

Cody Zeller puts future of Hawks center position in question

It would seem to indicate that one of starter Clint Capela, backup Onyeka Okongwu, or third-stringer Bruno Fernando is on the way out. Capela has been the most-often mentioned in trade speculation. 

He is entering the final year of a two-year, $46 million contract. Okongwu’s ability to play the 4 and the Hawks’ lack of another true starting option seemingly work in his favor.

Fernando, though, had the guaranteed date on his 2024-25 salary pushed back to July 10. 

That gave the Hawks enough time to finalize their terms on the trade for Murray, which potentially landed Fernando’s replacement. He is in the final year of a four-year, $10.9 million contract with a $2.7 million cap hit for the 2024-25 season.

Okongwu is starting a four-year, $61.9 million deal with a $14 million cap hit for 2024-25. With Capela’s deal expiring and Okogwu’s extension kicking in, another move could still come.

Zeller’s addition also puts the final stamp on another previously rumored piece of business.

Hawks had no interest in taking back Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram in Dejounte Murray trade

The Hawks were one of several teams linked to Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram before trading Murray. Ingram remained in limbo following the move, though any chances he would ever land with the Hawks were apparently infinitesimal. 

“The Hawks weren't interested in taking Brandon Ingram,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on “The Hoop Collective” podcast on July 6.

There are several viable reasons the Hawks may have passed on the 2019-20 All-Star Ingram.

First, he is not a natural fit, even with his ability to play shooting guard. He is a player who performs best with the ball in his hands, which may have been rarer with the Hawks than the Pelicans.

Atlanta already has an established point guard in Trae Young. rising star forward Jalen Johnson figures to have the ball in his hands more in the wake of Murray’s trade too.

Ingram also needs to be paid. He is entering the final year of a five-year, $158.2 million contract.

Having to open up the checkbook for a one-time All-Star who has not logged a 65-game season since his rookie year with the rest of the roster in flux may have also been a tough sell.

Ingram, for all of his offensive versatility, also offers little on the defensive end beyond length.

His 114 defensive rating over the last two seasons was his best mark since his All-Star campaign, per Basketball Reference. But players shot slightly above their season average when matched up against him. He has averaged at least 1.0 steals once – in his All-Star season.