Former exec points to 'elephant in the room' after Hawks' Dejounte Murray trade

One former NBA executive pointed to a significant question mark lingering over the Atlanta Hawks after the Dejounte Murray trade.
Dejounte Murray, Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Dejounte Murray, Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks did well to flip Dejounte Murray, who was a clunky fit as a 2-guard, especially next to a defensive target in Trae Young, for pieces that at least on paper fit better next to the latter.

Larry Nance offers versatility to the frontcourt, with experience playing 3-5. Dyson Daniels is a terrific defender, if nothing else at this point.

The Hawks also got salary cap relief and draft capital to build the roster. But is more coming?

“There’s the elephant in the room. No discussion of Atlanta’s plight is complete without discussing the nuclear option: Trading Young to San Antonio and getting those picks back, which would allow Atlanta to move forward with a sincere tanking reset around Risacher, Johnson and Daniels,” The Athletic’s John Hollinger wrote on June 28 (subscription required).

Young still has three seasons and $138 million left on his five-year, $215.1 million contract. He also has a $48.9 million player option for the 2026-27 season.

The three-time All-Star has not publicly pushed for a trade. He has instead said the inverse, that he wants to stay, putting the onus on the front office to decide if it wants to contend now or down the road.

However, his name did come up in trade rumors ahead of the February deadline.

Dejounte Murray was the Hawks’ most bandied-about player asset. But Young’s name surfaced as teams came away believing he could be made available this offseason. 

However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that the market for both players played a part in which one was ultimately dealt away. Murray is starting a four-year, $114 million contract that maxes out at $31.3 million even after his trade kicker, though he too has an option for 2026-27.

That could mean the Hawks’ trade options with Young are indeed limited.

Proposed trade sends Trae Young to Spurs for $38 million trio

Hollinger calls the San Antonio Spurs the “only plausible” trade destination for Young given they control the Hawks’ first-round picks until 2028 from the trade to acquire Murray in 2022.

“Conveniently, San Antonio also desperately needs an elite point guard and could easily aggregate non-core salaries (Devonte’ Graham, Zach Collins and Tre Jones) to match Young’s $43 million salary,” Hollinger wrote. “The fact that the Spurs just pushed back Graham’s guarantee date to July 8 at least makes you wonder.”

Using the outline from Hollinger, who spent eight years in the Memphis Grizzlies front office, this Soaring Down South trade proposal could get the job done.

Trae to SAS

Collins, 26, averaged 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists last season. The 6-foot-11 former No. 10 overall pick (2017) also plays with an edge the Hawks have lacked in recent years. 

He is starting a two-year, $34.8 million contract with cap hits of $16.7 million in 2024-25 and $18 million in 2025-26.

Graham, 29, averaged 5.0 points, 2.0 assists, and 1.6 rebounds last season.

He is on the smaller side. And despite being a career 35.4% shooter from beyond the arc, he has not shot even that well since 2020-21. Graham is heading into the final year of a four-year, $47.3 million pact with a $12.6 million cap hit in 2024-25.

The 24-year-old Jones is the brother of Washington Wizards point guard Tyus Jones. A former second-round pick, he has averaged double-digit points for the last two seasons.

He averaged 10.0 points, 6.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.0 steals.

Jones is entering the final year of a two-year, $19 million contract and carries a $9 million cap hit this coming season. Coming off a career-high 77 appearances in 2023-24, Jones does not possess the preternatural passing ability that Young does. But he can run an effective offense.

The Spurs might be reluctant to relinquish control of the Hawks 2025 first-round pick ahead of what would be a tank effort by the Hawks with a loaded draft class coming up next year.

The above proposal would shave more than $4.5 million from the Hawks’ books in 2024-25.

It would also give them an even more uncertain future with a Head Coach in Quin Snyder who was brought in to win. But he also has a contract that runs through 2027 and could be on board with the prolonged approach. 

Zaccharie Risacher and Jalen Johnson could be poised to start the 2024-25 season as the Hawks’ new core.