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With Dejounte Murray, Are the Hawks The Team to Watch in Next Year's Playoffs?

The Atlanta Hawks had a disappointing season. The team struggled through the course of the season, and everything culminated with the early playoff exit. Miami Heat eliminated the Hawks 4-1 on their way to the Eastern Conference finals.

Strong Heat defence exposed the weaknesses of Atlanta. Miami aggressively switched their perimeter defenders on Trae Young, who came up short with 15.4 points, six assists and 6.2 turnovers on average. In addition, his beyond-the-arc shooting was atrocious with only 18.4 per cent.

Trae Young is the driving force for the Hawks, who have among the best offensive rating of 119.8 with him on the courts. However, heat challenged Trae Young, who struggled, and no teammates could effectively take the ball-handling tasks once double-team came.

Trading for San Antonio Spurs All-Star

As soon as NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news, a trade that sent Danilo Gallinari and multiple first-round picks to San Antonio for Dejounte Murray made a shockwave. It was strange for the Spurs to send its sole All-Star player, but they are obviously heading to a total rebuild. San Antonio got the big haul with picks, while the Hawks got a considerable prospect after his best career year. Dejounte Murray is also relatively cheap with a $16.6 million cap hit.

If he had stayed in San Antonio, he was due a supermax deal soon. But instead, the Spurs, who are not close to contention, decided to move the guard and start over.

What do oddsmakers say

All major oddsmakers changed their projections for the Hawks after the move. Atlanta title odds shortened from +7000 to +5000 and moved towards +2000 for Eastern conference champions. So if you bet on basketball, Murray to the Hawks has significant implications for Atlanta's chances.

Most analysts wonder how two ball-dominant guards can share the court and have success. Yet, in many ways, these two players complement each other.

Why will the trade work?

In the driving seat of explosive offence, Trae Young makes him one of the most influential players. However, at the same time, Trae Young is a defensive liability. Too often is he the point of attack, and Young's defensive collapses create easier opportunities for the opposing team.

Transitional defence is another area where the Hawks are awful, and it starts with a smaller frame and defensive ability from their point guard.

Dejounte Murray is taller and has a reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders. He led the league in steals with 2 per game and can be great as a zone or on-ball defender. Murray is also much better as a transitional defender and has some advantages in the offence.

Dejounte Murray is better in open court, leading the fast break. On the other hand, Trae Young has shown the ability to create scoring opportunities in a half-court set with a skip, lay down and lob pass. Murray lags in play creation and is better with outlet and kick-out passes.

The idea behind the trade is to use both guards together. Dejounte Murray can take point guard duties, while Trae Young can move towards shooting guard with his outstanding shooting prowess. Then, if teams trap Young next season, Murray can take over and continue the attack.

Another thing to consider is long-range threes from Trae Young. He attempted over 500 such shots with a solid percentage. Sometimes teams isolate Young and let others play 4 on 4, so adding an All-Stars guard with 9.2 assists per game is a massive deal for the Hawks.

Does this make Atlanta a contender?

East is packed with great teams. Boston is coming from the NBA finals, and, with the addition of Malcolm, Brogdon will be in the upper tier. If they can sort out the current mess with Durant and Irving, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Miami, and Brooklyn are teams to beat on the way to the finals.

The Atlanta Hawks already had a top 10 offence in the league, and with the addition of Murray, they could significantly improve the defence, which was not close to elite last year.

Atlanta's depth chart has Young, Murray and Huerter as a backcourt threat. De'Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic and AJ Griffin are their wings, while Collins, Johnson, Capela and Okongwu make the frontcourt. The free agency is still open, and Atlanta could try to find another athletic wing player to boost the defence even more.

Atlanta is looking to return to the Eastern Conference finals, where they played inspired basketball two seasons ago. But, despite adding Dejounte Murray, the Hawks still need one or two pieces to contend among stacked Eastern playoff prospects.