Friday, March 24 2023
Mike Meredith/CBS Sports

It was quickly overshadowed by several other bombshell NBA developments, but the Atlanta Hawks significantly improved their prospects for the 2022-23 season when they pulled off a blockbuster deal for Dejounte Murray early in the offseason. Murray now joins superstar Trae Young to form one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA, and, when healthy, Altanta should sport a well-rounded and talented starting lineup.

Hawks fans were undoubtedly disappointed by last season’s eighth-place finish and their first-round playoff exit, and the front office clearly felt that an overhaul was in order. As a result, Atlanta now has two All-Stars in its backcourt, but had to sacrifice depth and other assets in the process. The Hawks are all in, and there will be no tolerance for another subpar season.

Here’s a quick look at some of the offseason changes, followed by a preview of the 2022-23 Atlanta Hawks.

Key changes


Top of the key: Trae gets some help

The Hawks struggled in two main areas last season: They couldn’t get stops and they couldn’t score with Trae Young off the floor. Enter Dejounte Murray, an all-defense caliber guard who ran as many pick-and-rolls as any player in the league while achieving All-Star status for the first time last season.

Atlanta was the NBA’s fifth-worst team in defensive efficiency last season, allowing 113.7 points per 100 possessions. Meanwhile, the offensive rating plummeted from 117.2 with Young on the court to 107.2 without him. In theory, Murray could single-handedly fix both of those issues — he can help cover up Young’s defensive shortcomings by guarding the other team’s best perimeter threat, and also initiate offense when Young rests.

Murray’s presence will allow Young to play more off the ball, an area where he’s been criticized for a lack of activity and intensity over the first four years of his stellar career. One thing’s for sure, however: He’s a knock-down shooter. Young was in the 96th percentile in catch-and-shoot situations last season, according to Synergy Sports, hitting over 48 percent of his spot-up 3-pointers on just 77 attempts. The attempts should rise this season with Murray’s ability to run the show, allowing Young to thrive in an aspect of his game we’ve only seen glimpses of thus far.

Next on the agenda: Enough shooting?

Young is arguably the best pick-and-roll playmaker in the league, and to maximize his ability you need to surround him with shooting. After trading away deadeye marksmen in Huerter and Gallinari and replacing them with Murray — for all his talents, a relative non-shooter — it’s fair to ask if there will be enough spacing when Young has the ball in his hands. Playing Collins at the five helps that, but Capela is crucial to the Hawks’ pick-and-roll game as a lob threat in the dunker spot. Okongwu also figures to become a more prominent part of Atlanta’s rotation this season, and he has attempted three total 3-pointers (none last season) in his two-year career. That means if Murray plays next to Young and Capela/Okongwu, that’s two non-shooters on the floor.

Bogdanovic is an excellent spot-up shooter, but he has struggled to stay on the floor the last two seasons due to injuries. Atlanta is surely hoping that Hunter can maintain or improve upon his career-high 38 percent from behind the arc last season, and that additions like Justin Holiday, who shot 38.5 percent on corner 3s last season, can benefit from cleaner looks. They can even mix in Kaminsky, a career 35 percent 3-point shooter, in certain matchups.

McMillan has some decisions and evaluations to make about rotations, and the front office will need to get creative if they want to make a deal before the deadline with most of their draft capital going to the Spurs in the Murray trade.

One more thing: The chip is back

After Atlanta’s unexpected run to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals, Young infamously set off alarm bells by calling the regular season “boring” in the early part of 2021-22. Well, lesson learned. The ascending superstar discovered firsthand why you can never take anything for granted in the NBA, as his team was forced into the play-in tournament and subsequently bounced in five games by the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Young, and therefore the entire Hawks franchise, should be humbled by last season, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

As opposed to last season, when many picked the Hawks to be an up-and-coming team that could once again make some real noise in the postseason, this season they have a legitimate “nobody believes in us” claim with the teams at the top of both conferences deservedly getting much of the attention. Murray should inject enough life into the roster to instill an air of confidence, and there will be no shortage of bulletin board motivation this time around.

Key games

Any time Trae Young heads to Madison Square Garden, it’s must-watch TV — which makes it somewhat surprising that their first matchup against the Knicks isn’t nationally televised. The second one is, however, so fans can tune into that in early December with or without a League Pass subscription. Atlanta is also going to want revenge against the Heat after their ugly playoff loss, and it will be a good early opportunity on Thanksgiving weekend to see where they stand against one of the East’s blue bloods.

And like it or not, Young and Luka Doncic are forever linked due to their draft-day swap, so the first time they meet this season will also be nationally televised, while a late-season battle against the Chicago Bulls could have significant playoff implications.

  • Nov. 2, at New York Knicks
  • Nov. 27, vs. Miami Heat
  • Dec. 7, at New York Knicks (ESPN)
  • Jan. 18, at Dallas Mavericks (ESPN)
  • April 4, at Chicago Bulls



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