Why the Hawks should build around Dejounte Murray

NBA: APR 17 Play In East Hawks at Bulls

Two offseasons ago, the trade that brought Dejounte Murray to Atlanta had the city buzzing with excitement. The Eastern Conference Finals was still fresh in the minds of the Hawks faithful, and now Trae Young had the first All-Star teammate of his career. It felt like a potential turning point in franchise history; unfortunately, it was a turning point in the wrong direction.

The fit between Trae Young and Dejounte Murray was always questionable, but most underestimated just how abysmal it could be. Young and Murray are All-Star caliber talents by themselves; together, it is borderline unwatchable. The hope was that Quin Snyder could help the two co-exist, but the further we get into this experiment, the more evident it has become that coaching isn’t the issue. One of Murray or Young must be moved this offseason, and perhaps it is time to turn the page on the Trae Young era in Atlanta.

Typing that feels a bit like a gut punch. Trae Young made basketball fans in Atlanta finally believe in a franchise that had been a laughingstock for most of its existence. He brought the Hawks to just their second Eastern Conference Finals since moving to Atlanta in 1968, and if he doesn’t get hurt, we could be having an entirely different conversation. Young has proven capable of leading a team deep into the playoffs and is one of the most exciting players in the league to watch on a nightly basis. Outside of Dominique Wilkins, he is undoubtedly the best player in Atlanta Hawks history.

This isn’t how anyone thought it would end, not so soon at least. However, because of the Hawks inept ability to build a team around Young, they’ve put themselves in a position to have to make difficult decisions.

Trae Young has made it overwhelmingly clear since the end of the season that he wants to win. If that doesn’t happen this year, everyone eventually expects him to force his way out of Atlanta. Dejounte Murray, on the other hand, just signed a four-year extension with the Hawks last offseason, which kicks in this year. That kind of control gives Landry Fields and company a little more time to build around Murray with less immediate pressure.

Beyond the length of the contracts, Murray’s deal also provides the Hawks with a lot more room to maneuver financially. He’s set to make under $30 million in each of the next three seasons, while Young approaches $50 million, a full $20 million difference in AAV.

Nobody can argue that Dejounte Murray is a better player than Trae Young. He’s a true superstar, and anybody saying otherwise is a bonafide hater. I’m not going to entertain that kind of nonsense because Young, at 25-years-old, has already accomplished more and been deeper in the playoffs than most point guards in the league. However, when considering the contract situations and the potential return the Hawks may be able to fetch in a trade by including Trae Young, the conversation becomes a lot different.

Letting go of Trae Young may be difficult for everyone involved, fans included. However, hanging on too long could potentially set the Hawks back another 5-10 years. Moving on could be what’s best for both parties.

Photo: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

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