Though the Atlanta Hawks had one of the best offenses last season, when they got to the playoffs it was evident changes needed to be made. The head of the snake, Trae Young, needed not only another good ball handler to play beside him, but someone that could also make up for his defensive flaws in the backcourt.
Insert Dejounte Murray, who was traded from the San Antonio Spurs for three first-round picks. Murray, who was coming off his first All-Star selection in 2021-22, was deemed to be the player that would fit perfectly next to Young. Murray was a do-it-all point guard for the Spurs, scoring, rebounding, and finding his teammates for good looks. On defense, he was a pest that was good at playing the passing lanes and getting steals.
That was the plan for him to do in Atlanta while taking the offensive load off of Young, allowing him to play more off the ball as well. Though the idea sounded good, the big question coming into the season was if two ball-dominant guards could play off each other and succeed.
The season did show that Murray helped take the load off of Young, but Young also helped him as well. Though his averages were down from last season with the Spurs, Murray had one of his best offensive seasons this year, especially from the mid-range where he lives. The guard shot 51% on two-pointers this season, which was the highest of his career. Murray also extended his range to the three-point line a lot more than he had in the past, averaging 5.2 attempts on the season.
Without a solidified backup guard on the team, Murray played as the backup guard when Young wasn't on the floor. He was able to take more control of the offense, and helped the Hawks stay afloat, something they've struggled with in the past when Young was off the floor. As the season went on and the bench started to gel more, they became one of the most solid second units in the league.
Murray still had his ups and downs on offense this season, which was expected when coming into a new situation. The start of calendar year 2023 was very kind to Murray, as he went on an offensive rampage through a run of games, shooting a high clip from three-point range and knocking down his bread-and-butter mid-range shot. When Quin Snyder took over, it looked like Murray made more of an effort to find his three-point shot, which is big element in the new coaches’ system.
There were other times when Murray struggled, which would box in the Hawks offense. Some of that had to do with the fit; sometimes it just wasn't Murray’s night. To help counter that, the Hawks put more shooters around him and let him operate as a facilitator. This was one of the big questions heading into the season when it came to both he and Young playing together, and it showed how efficient it could be at times, or how it could hurt them on offense if Murray isn't the best version of himself and knocking down shots.
Defensively, Murray wasn't at the level that many expected, especially at the point of attack. Most notably in the playoffs, it was essentially hard for any Hawks player to keep the Celtics in front of them, which hurt them a ton. Where Murray operated the best on defense was getting steals on occasion, but if he wasn't doing that, his defense wasn't great.
It will be interesting to see how Murray operates in a full season with head coach Quin Synder, and Snyder he plans to use the guard in the offense. Murray still can be a solid defender due to his size at the position, which would help the Hawks tremendously in that category. In his first season with the team, there were some good things to take away from his pairing with Young, and with the right pieces on the team, the match could be a better fit in the future.