The Atlanta Hawks adding Dejounte Murray would change the entire landscape of the Eastern Conference

Looks like Dejounte Murray could be headed to Atlanta.

Looks like Dejounte Murray could be headed to Atlanta.
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The Atlanta Hawks were the second best offensive team in the NBA this past season. Trae Young had the best season of his career averaging 28.4 points and 9.7 assists per game on 46/38.2/90.4 shooting splits. He kept his team’s offense rolling all season despite many injuries. Of players who averaged three or more 3-point attempts per game in the Hawks’ regular rotation, seven shot better than 36 percent from behind the arc.

However, the Miami Heat put a stop to all of that in the first round of the playoffs. They hounded Young all over the court for five games, causing him to put up one of the worst playoff performances in NBA history from a star player — 15.4 points and 6.2 turnovers per game on 31.9/18.4/78.8 shooting splits. The Heat held the Hawks’ explosive offense to under 100 points in three of their five contests, exploiting the Atlanta offense’s glaring weakness: No creators off the dribble besides Young.

It appears the Hawks are trying to rectify that problem by adding another all-star to the team. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer and WSBTV Sports Director Zach Klein are reporting that the Hawks are trying to trade for Dejounte Murray. Both are saying that the current offer is Danilo Gallinari and multiple first round picks.

For the San Antonio Spurs this is actually a good idea. They’ve lost in the play-in tournament in two consecutive seasons, and that’s as far as they can go with their roster as currently constructed. The Spurs have never been the most attractive free agent destination, and certainly are not with a mediocre team. With extra first round picks they can rebuild in the draft, maybe select Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 NBA draft. They’ll never get a pick high enough to do that with Murray on the roster.

For the Hawks, they immediately have arguably the best backcourt in the NBA. Murray is 6-foot-4, but has a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He’s explosive, shifty, a great playmaker, and still improving. The 2021-22 season was his best yet, averaging 21.1 points, 9.2 assists, and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Also, not only will he be able to give Young some relief as a primary ball handler, but opposing defenses would no longer be able to focus on him the way that the Heat did in the playoffs. It wouldn’t be a “my turn, your turn” offense with the two of them, because Murray is capable of playing without the ball in his hands. He was 27th in the NBA in usage rate this past season, lower than 17 other all-stars and the Spurs traded their second-best ball handler — Derrick White — at the deadline.

He would also make Young more of a threat off of the ball. With Murray running the offense that would allow the Hawks to work Young into actions like the Golden State Warriors do with Stephen Curry, running defenders off of screens for spot-up threes. Adding Murray to the roster would likely result in Young finally shooting better than 40 percent from three for the first time in his NBA career.

Defense as a whole is a problem for the Hawks. They had the ninth-worst defensive rating in the NBA this past season. Murray —second-team All Defense in 2017-18 — and De’Andre Hunter on the perimeter, putting pressure on opposing ball handlers and making Clint Capela’s life much easier while protecting the paint, would give the Hawks the respectable defense they need to make a real run in steadily improving Eastern Conference.

Trading for Murray is a move that contenders make. The Hawks haven’t been considered perennial contenders since Dominique Wilkins was flying from the rafters at The Omni. Three first-round picks is certainly worth it for Murray, and if the only player that they have to give up is Gallinari, a starting lineup of Young, Murray, Bogdan Bogdanović, John Collins, and Capela is at least challenging the Miami Heat for the top spot in Southeast division next season.

Even if the Hawks have to give up Kevin Huerter instead of Gallinari, they must make this deal. It’s the best shot they’ve had to make a serious offseason transaction to improve their roster since they signed Dikembe Mutombo in 1995. Murray takes the Hawks from a fun to watch, to a 50-plus win team. If this trade happens, it will probably be the most significant move of the offseason. The Hawks don’t get many opportunities like this, so they had better not blow it.

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