The Atlanta Hawks are going all-in for push up the Eastern Conference with a bold trade for an established backcourt partner next to Trae Young. The Hawks have acquired Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs for Charlotte’s 2023 first round pick, unprotected first round picks in 2025 and 2027, Danilo Gallinari, and a pick swap, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
It’s a trade that firmly sets a direction for both franchises. The Hawks are making an all-in push to get back to where they were two seasons ago — the Eastern Conference Finals — before barely grabbing the No. 8 seed in the East this past year. The Spurs, meanwhile, are finally fully committing to a rebuild in a way they didn’t do when they initially traded Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs haven’t won a playoff series since trading Leonard, but they also haven’t picked higher than No. 9 in the draft, either.
The Spurs are taking a big risk by trading their best player at 25 years old. The Hawks are taking a risk as well by depleting their best future assets for Murray. Here’s how we’d grade the deal for both sides.
Atlanta Hawks grade on Dejounte Murray trade
Right now, the Eastern Conference is most talented it’s been since Michael Jordan retired. The Boston Celtics coming off an NBA Finals run and have a great collection of young talent that just starting to enter its prime. The Milwaukee Bucks won a championship in 2021, and have the best player in the world in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Miami Heat came within a Jimmy Butler three-pointer of going to the NBA Finals this year. The Sixers have Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey. The Nets still have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, and Chicago Bulls are trying to win, too.
Atlanta knew it needed to make a big move to break through in the East. Trading three picks for Murray is about as big as it gets.
Murray made his first All-Star team at age-25 last season. The 6’4 guard put up 21.1 points, 9.2 assists, and 8.3 rebounds per game while leading the league in steals with 138 (2.0 per game) on the season. He’s an excellent defender who leverages his length (6’10 wingspan) and ultra quick hands to smother small guards at the point of attack, and wreck havoc in the passing lanes. He’s made incredible strides as an offensive player since returning from a torn ACL in 2018, improving his scoring average from 10.9 points to 15.7 points to 21.1 points per game over the last three years.
Murray is a tremendous defensive fit next to Young, who is one of the league’s worst defensive guards. The offensive fit is a little more tricky. Both Murray and Young like to play with the ball in their hands. Young has put up one of the highest usage rates in the league the last three seasons. Murray’s biggest weakness is as a three-point shooter — he’s a 33 percent shooter from deep on only two attempts per game in his career. Will he be able to effectively space the floor when Young has the ball?
Young is of course an excellent shooter, but is he ready to commit to a more off-ball role? Young hasn’t been a great off-ball player to this point in his career, but he certainly has the quickness and shooting gravity to become that.
This trade makes Atlanta way better in the present — but are they better than Boston, Milwaukee, Miami, and Philadelphia? Just winning one series in the East is a major accomplishment, but that won’t be enough for Atlanta after leveraging all of their assets to make this move.
The Hawks better hope their young core develops alongside their starting backcourt, beginning with Onyeka Okongwu, AJ Griffin, DeAndre Hunter, and Jalen Johnson. If some of those young players can develop into reliable starters (Hunter is already there and Okongwu is close), Atlanta could have a deep and talented core next to Young and Murray. The Hawks will have two playoff runs with Murray before they eventually have to pay him a big contract that will likely be at or near a max.
Murray was an injury replacement All-Star last season. The Hawks better hope he can regularly be in the conversation for that moving forward to justify the cost. At the same time, you have to respect Atlanta for going all-in. It’s a steep price to play, but the team just got so much better. We’re just not totally sold this makes them an NBA Finals threat just yet.
San Antonio Spurs grade on Dejounte Murray trade
The Spurs have been stuck in NBA purgatory since trading Leonard. San Antonio chose to get veterans DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl in the Leonard deal instead of a package of draft picks, but they haven’t won a playoff series since the trade.
This move firmly sets the course for the Spurs: they are going to be bad, and they’re going to try to find their next franchise star at the top of the draft. The last time the Spurs tanked, they landed Tim Duncan in the draft. San Antonio will be praying to the lottery gods for similar luck next summer.
The Spurs’ rebuild added three first round draft picks earlier this month with Jeremy Sochan, Malachi Branham, and Blake Wesley. Wesley has the tools to eventually become what Murray grew into if everything hits right — but of course that’s a big if. This trade gives the Spurs the chance to see their young players develop in a pressure-free environment where the team doesn’t feel like it’s wasting the last two years of Murray’s team-friendly contract.
Getting unprotected first rounders in 2025 and 2027 is a massive coup for San Antonio. Those picks can be anything ... even a player as good as Dejounte Murray. The reality is this version of San Antonio wasn’t going anywhere with Murray, and they traded him when his value was at its peak. The Spurs got multiple teams to bid against each other for Murray, driving the price way, way up. This is truly a massive haul of picks that will shape San Antonio’s future whether they use them on players or package them in future trades.
The 2023 NBA Draft has two big prizes at the top with Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson. Read our extensive breakdown of projected No. 1 overall Wembanyama here. Check out our 2023 mock draft here. Next season might not be fun for the Spurs, but they suddenly have a ton of assets to hopefully ignite the franchise’s great era.