After making a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2020-21 season, the Atlanta Hawks went 43-39 the following season and exited the playoffs in the first round. That pushed Atlanta to re-evaluate its roster and make a big offseason deal, trading three-first-round picks for then-San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray. The belief was Murray would cover for Trae Young’s defensive deficiencies, and the explosive young backcourt could take the franchise to the next level.
One and a half seasons later, the Hawks are eight games below .500 entering their matchup against the Spurs on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Murray deal hasn’t exactly worked out for either team, but the Spurs do seem set up better for the future with the Hawks looking to split up their backcourt. While Murray is the primary name in trade conversations per multiple reports, Young isn’t exactly safe from being dealt. Murray and Young are -95 in 844 minutes together, according to NBA.com lineup data, which is not even remotely close to what Atlanta needs from its stars. Head coach Quin Snyder hasn’t been able to make things work in his first season at the helm, and now he’ll likely be asked which guard he feels is better to move forward with.
Here’s a look at the potential paths for the Hawks, including potential destinations for both guards.
The case for dealing Dejounte Murray
Murray is averaging 21.1 points per game this season, significantly less than Young’s 27.2 scoring average. With the emergence of Jalen Johnson and Bogdan Bogdanovic taking on a bigger role in a Murray deal, that scoring can be made up easier. Also, Murray can’t quite run this offense like Young.
The defensive dropoff is also concerning. After being regarded as one of the better perimeter defenders in San Antonio with the defensive ratings to match, Murray’s marks have slipped a lot in his two seasons with the Hawks. His defensive rating was 116 last year, which is barely passable. His defensive rating this year is 122, which is bordering on abysmal. Murray is a -2.6 according to basketball-reference.com on/off data, while Young is -0.7.
The Hawks also don’t have an organizational investment in Murray outside of the draft picks. Young was the player Atlanta traded Luka Doncic for in the 2018 NBA Draft, and the franchise has built its entire identity around him since. It’s hard to give that up. Young is 25 while Murray is 27, and both are going to be on long-term deals. That makes Young a bit more appealing than Murray to keep around.
The Knicks were already rumored to be interested in Murray, but the Lakers and 76ers could also look to make a play for the guard. The Raptors could also be in the mix, especially since Atlanta has been a team in on Pascal Siakam. Sending Murray back to Toronto would make that negotiation a bit easier. The Heat could also be in on Murray after missing out on Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday this offseason.
The case for dealing Trae Young
The two-man lineup of Murray and Bogdanovic is +72 in 549 minutes together, while the Young-Bogdanovic pairing is +28 in 567 minutes together. Bogdanovic would step into a bigger role with one guard out, and there’s one better pairing.
Even though both Murray and Young are on long-term deals, Young’s cap hit is much higher than Murray’s. Also, Young would bring more back in a trade for the Hawks. Atlanta is still just one game out from the final play-in spot and could use any additional pieces it can get.
Snyder has historically preached being sound defensively as a coach, and there’s at least some evidence of Murray being a good defender. Young has never excelled on that side of the ball, and it’s hard to have a solid defensive foundation when your point guard can’t keep players in front of him consistently.
There’s not much of a market for Young, who has shown his frustrations with the franchise from time to time. The focus right now is on Murray but teams should be interested in Young as well. The Lakers and 76ers are the obvious teams looking for a guard upgrade but another team to keep an eye on is the Nets. Brooklyn has the draft capital and young players to entice Atlanta, and the Nets could add Young to their core.