The Atlanta Hawks have been determined for one more star.
After that surprising pleasure trip in the 2021 playoffs, their underwhelming exhibiting final season in the much-improved Eastern Conference was a significant downside for all concerned. Pressure from possession was rising – once more – particularly with Trae Young’s supermax extension about to kick in for the 2022-23 marketing campaign.
The excessive stakes meant it was excessive time to make one other transfer; to boost the collective ceiling on this group that had proven a lot promise two postseasons in the past.
The five-game first-round loss to Miami made clear how badly the Hawks needed a secondary perimeter playmaker next to Young. The group believed this was a necessity earlier than the collection, sources instructed The Athletic, and that was solely highlighted by the Heat’s potential to hound Atlanta’s All-NBA guard and drive him off the ball at an unprecedented degree. Atlanta didn’t have the scoring or the playmaking threats to make up for Young being fully taken out of the sport by Miami’s physicality and size.
Enter 2021-22 All-Star Dejounte Murray, the San Antonio Spurs guard who’s headed to Atlanta in a commerce for Danilo Gallinari, a 2023 top-16 protected first-round choose by way of Charlotte, 2025 and 2027 unprotected first-round picks and a 2026 choose swap that’s additionally unprotected, sources told The Athletic. It’s a win-now transfer if ever there was one, a transparent signal that the Hawks are dedicated to maximizing the Young period whereas shoring up a protection that ranked 26th in points allowed per 100 possessions last season. But it’s additionally a hefty worth to pay, the variety of make-or-break, mortgage-your-future transfer that shall be monitored and scrutinized for years to come.
The Hawks are hoping this goes effectively sufficient that Murray will need to stick round after his present deal expires in the summer season of 2024 (he’s owed $16.5 million and $17.7 million in the next two seasons). Murray is eligible to signal a three-year extension this offseason price as much as $74.7 million after incentives, however it’s unlikely he agrees to 1 now after the All-Star season he simply had with the Spurs. In the short-term, the Hawks merely should discover a technique to contend once more in an Eastern Conference with Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Miami and Brooklyn remaining as formidable as ever.
Just a week ago, Landry Fields, Atlanta’s soon-to-be normal supervisor, mentioned the entrance workplace was “mandated to get better, and we want to get better.” The Hawks are higher, and there’s potential for much more enchancment in the coming days.
With all indicators persevering with to level to a John Collins commerce in the Hawks’ close to future, it’s onerous to handicap Atlanta’s potential for next season and past with out understanding their return in that broadly anticipated deal. Sources say the commerce conversations for this Murray deal concerned Collins at first, earlier than the Spurs pivoted.
It’s additionally doable the Hawks discover buying and selling both Kevin Huerter or Bogdan Bogdanovic, who could also be headed for bench roles because of this of the Murray addition. Huerter signed a four-year, $65 million deal final offseason, whereas Bogdanovic is owed $18 million this season and recovering from offseason knee surgical procedure that’s anticipated to sideline him by way of coaching camp.
Murray was the solely participant to common no less than 21 factors, 9 assists and eight rebounds final season, with solely Luka Dončić and James Harden coming close. Murray isn’t a risk from the perimeter, taking pictures simply 33.3 p.c from 3 in his profession and simply 32.7 p.c final season. He’s not Klay Thompson to Young’s oft-cited basketball doppelgänger, Steph Curry. Not even shut.
While Murray is one of the higher scoring guards in the league inside the perimeter, making 44 p.c of his midrange jumpers and 64 p.c of his makes an attempt at the rim, he had a 26.8 utilization price that far surpassed that of Huerter (16.9), the Hawks’ off-guard incumbent. Murray will want the ball, and Young might have to grasp the artwork of taking part in off the ball like, effectively, Curry. This shall be an adjustment for Young and Murray, as the two All-Stars each played 100% of their minutes at point guard final season, per Cleaning the Glass.
Yet since Young entered the league, the Hawks have at all times believed they may absolutely unleash the finest model of Young if he embraced shifting off the ball. That talent isn’t solely new for Young, who did it extensively in his AAU days alongside Denver Nuggets ahead Michael Porter Jr. In his restricted off-ball makes an attempt at the NBA degree, Young has been sensible. This previous season, he scored 1.3 factors per spot-up possession, rating in the 97th percentile, per Synergy Sports. Young made 48.1 p.c of his 77 catch-and-shoot 3-point makes an attempt final season.
Now that Young has a operating mate in Murray, who can run the present with or with out him on the ground, the Hawks can unlock their celebrity’s full offensive arsenal. All it took was Gallinari’s partially assured contract, a horde of draft property and just a few tense days of negotiations.
As the Hawks and Spurs talked about the deal late final week and by way of the weekend, there was a way of confusion and disbelief from some of the concerned events on the Atlanta aspect. Were the Spurs actually prepared to half methods with a 25-year-old who’s broadly seen as one of the finest under-the-radar abilities in the league? Would they actually welcome a full-on rebuild throughout Gregg Popovich’s twilight years? The Hawks knew the worth can be excessive to land Murray, however the probability to resolve so many of their issues by pairing him with Young of their backcourt was too good to go up.
Then got here the unnerving silence. Sources say the Spurs went quiet for an prolonged interval early this week, with Hawks officers questioning internally if San Antonio might have been retreating from the doable deal or, maybe, gaining momentum in commerce talks elsewhere. Time was of the essence on the Hawks’ aspect, as Gallinari’s $21.45 million contract for this season was set to totally assure by Wednesday night.
Yet whereas The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski reported that there have been Murray-centric talks between the Spurs and Minnesota final week, the Timberwolves’ entrance workplace clearly wasn’t comfortable going all-in to land him. The Knicks have been reported as a doable Murray touchdown spot, however a supply with information of their discussions mentioned they didn’t speak to San Antonio about him. Atlanta, in the meantime, was clearly decided to search out one other elite wing expertise.
While the Murray talks have been evolving, sources say the Hawks have been monitoring Brooklyn’s scenario carefully and – like so many different groups round the league – severely making ready for the risk that Nets star Kevin Durant might ask for a commerce. While Kyrie Irving’s choice to decide in for the ultimate 12 months of his contract introduced a fast finish to the Durant chatter, the Hawks’ curiosity spoke volumes about the scope and urgency of their search.
In the finish, Murray was their man.
(Top photograph of Dejounte Murray: Brett Davis / USA Today)