Making sense of the Hawks’ Murray acquisition

Published July 4, 2022, 4:00 PMMiguel Flores
Miguel Flores

How will Dejounte Murray’s game fit with Trae Young and the Hawks?

We've had such an eventful offseason that some of the earlier moves before the official free agency season have gotten overshadowed.

The Atlanta Hawks have gotten mixed up in several trade rumors, most prominently emerging as a possible landing spot for the disgruntled Kevin Durant. But the Hawks had already swung for the fences when they traded Danilo Gallinari, a pick swap in 2026, and three first round picks – two of which are unprotected – for the San Antonio Spurs’ All-Star guard Dejounte Murray.

In hindsight, that seems like quite a package for a player that’s only made one All-Star team with a checkered injury history. It seems like an overpay now, especially with the superstars that have all of a sudden become available.

But Dejounte Murray might be exactly what the Hawks need moving forward. Without even going into the possible on-court chemistry, Murray is one of the more underrated players in the NBA, even after being named an All-Star last season. 

According to ProFitX, a sports economics and performance initiative that generates data for numerous NBA teams and other partners, Dejounte Murray was playing at a level that was valued at around $31 million a year last season. Murray was only on the books for $15.4 million, thanks to the team-friendly extension he signed in 2020. Murray still has two years left on the extension, set to pay him an average of $16.5 million for the next two seasons.

In short, Murray provided All-NBA numbers at a bargain price. Very few players outperform their contracts by twice their value, let alone make the All-Star team. Giving up two unprotected first round picks make it seem like the Hawks are the ones taking a big risk in this transaction, when it’s the Spurs who gave up a player they really needed on a contract they could swallow. Those 2025 and 2027 picks could end up being low first rounders, if the Hawks continue their upward trend.

Making another deep playoff run isn’t far-fetched because Murray could unlock so much for the Hawks on both ends of the floor. As San Antonio’s top option, Murray’s herky-jerky midrange game combined with his athleticism led to him averaging 21.1 points on a 50.0 effective field goal percentage with 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists, and 2.0 steals – all of these were career-highs.

He was taking big shots down the stretch of big games for San Antonio as they made a run for a play-in berth. He was also an effective playmaker – a willing passer that learned to leverage how defenses played him into easy assists.


Slotting him next to another flashy ball handler In Trae Young shouldn’t be much of a puzzle for the Hawks and their coaching staff led by Nate McMillan. Young had the fourth highest usage rate this season among qualified players at 34.4 percent. Young had the ball in his hands so much last season, especially in the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat that it became a detriment.

Adding another ballhander should add several layers to the Hawks offense. Murray wasn’t much a 3-point shooter last season, making 32.7 percent from deep and just 34.5 percent of his catch-and-shoot tries. But creating any sort of extra space for Murray through an initial Trae action should be magic for a Hawks offense that almost stagnated with Young on the bench.

When Hawks president for basketball operations Travis Schlenk drafted Young in 2018, he imagined the second coming of Steph Curry. He believed in him so much that he traded down from the third pick to the fifth pick, passing up on Luka Doncic to select Young.

Adding Murray could finally give Young the opportunity to bring Schlenk’s vision to life by adding an off-ball component to his game. Playing next to another offensive threat that has playmaking chops should open the door for Young to become a premier off-ball option. Steph Curry is the diamond standard for off-ball trickery, but even adopting some old-school off-ball screening-and-running ala Ray Allen and Reggie Miller could elevate Young to the next level.

Young shot an astronomical 48.0 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s last season and is at around 43.4 percent on such tries for his career. Embracing some new tricks should give Young more of these shots, and eventually make him a much more efficient player overall.

This hasn’t even gone over how Murray gives the Hawks another solid defender. Murray could guard forwards or point guards alongside guys like Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Andre Hunter. Young just needs to learn to defend the third or fourth weakest offensive option in given matchups.

No matter how the Hawks navigate the rest of the offseason, they already signaled their intention to continue contending in the loaded Eastern Conference by acquiring Dejounte Murray. If the Hawks figure this out, they should give Boston, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee a run for their money.