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A Surprisingly Quiet Atlanta Hawks Trade Deadline

Atlanta Hawks stood pat at the deadline
(AP Photo/ Hakeem Wright Sr.)

The NBA season is full of surprises and activity around the trade deadline. Some teams are more active than others. During this campaign, the Atlanta Hawks let the basketball world know everyone other than Trae Young and Jalen Johnson was available for trade. In fact, Atlanta actively shopped Dejounte Murray leading up to the deadline. It seemed like a formality Atlanta would make a move.

“I do believe Dejounte Murray will likely be traded by the deadline,” said Senior NBA TNT NBA Insider Chris Haynes months before the Feb. 8 deadline.

However, the Hawks decided to go “tradeless” at the deadline. Many supporters were shocked, given Atlanta’s record (22-29 on Feb. 8) and tenth-place spot in the Eastern Conference. General Manager Landry Fields elected to finish the season with a roster that has yet to meet its expectations. This decision will be explored in greater depth below.


A Murray Trade is Not Urgent

In the summer of 2023, Murray signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension. This shocked a lot of people because many national and local reporters thought he was worth more. At media day on Oct. 2, Fields mentioned the extension exemplifies Murray’s “trust and loyalty” to the organization to put him in the best position to succeed. This signing gave the Hawks a greater degree of financial flexibility and security; their star backcourt was here to stay. However, the Young and Murray pairing has not yielded the results fans or the organization had hoped.

Murray’s fit with Atlanta’s roster is questionable, but he remains an undoubtedly great point guard on a contending squad. He plays off the ball next to Young, which is not his strong suit, but he has adjusted his offensive skillset to align with Head Coach Quin Snyder’s system. While Atlanta may ultimately move Murray, his contract is not a hindrance; it is quite the opposite. Murray’s team-friendly contract extension raises his market value for the next four years.

It appears Fields stood firm on his reported price for Murray- two first-round picks and a starter. If Atlanta tries to move Murray this offseason, interested teams can offer an extra draft pick.

“It’s easier to do deals in the summer than at the deadline. A lot of the prime suitors for Dejounte will have more assets coming up,” said writer Kevin Chouinard on a Twitter Space hosted by the Sports Ethos Atlanta Hawks Podcast.

In recent seasons, the Hawks held onto players they put on the trade block for too long. Atlanta fans remember when John Collins was shopped for three consecutive seasons. This significantly lowered his trade value and kept him on the payroll with an expensive five-year, $125 million contract. However, Murray’s situation differs because his contract is valuable and easier for teams to manage financially.


Focusing on Internal Development

Fields emphasized “internal development” multiple times in his post-trade deadline press conference.

“We’ve seen an uptick with Onyeka [Okongwu]… Jalen Johnson… Saddiq Bey… Even down in College Park, Kobe Bufkin is developing extremely well in that environment,” Fields said encouragingly.

The Hawks are prioritizing long-term success over short-term results. While the path to success could change, the front office does not want to rush the process.

“Could we have done something? Absolutely. But that would have been short-term results that we feel wouldn’t benefit us for the long term,” Fields said in his opening statement.

If Atlanta bought at the deadline, it would not have been wise. The Hawks rank near the bottom of the play-in tournament, and any small move to compete would not move the needle. However, selling players for less than their market value would be worse. If Fields plans to be more active this off-season, this would be a smart decision. However, if the Hawks intend to “run it back” with a similar core, it might come back to haunt them.

A.J. Griffin to the G League

After a great rookie season, A.J. Griffin fell out of the rotation combined with a long absence due to personal reasons. Hawks fans expected the sophomore guard to be a contributor before the 2023-’24 campaign. On Feb. 21, the Hawks announced that A.J. Griffin had been assigned to the College Park Skyhawks of the NBA G League. Fields mentioned it is part of his “development pathway.”

“On the defensive end, that’s a growth area for A.J. Everyone knows he’s an elite… shooter… at this stage of his career,” Fields responded to Chouinard.

Griffin posted 12 points (5-12 FG) and four rebounds off the bench in his first Skyhawks game. Unfortunately, he left in the second half with an ankle sprain, according to Lauren Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The injury bug also caught Okongwu, as Snyder said the Hawks would be without their promising, young center for the “foreseeable future” with a toe sprain.


The Final Third

All signs point to the Hawks competing for a playoff spot, even if it is through the play-in, this April. However, even if they reach the playoffs, Fields seems poised to explore changes to the roster after this season’s conclusion.

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