The Atlanta Hawks made one of the biggest plays of the summer when they traded for Spurs’ Dejounte Murray. This team was in the Eastern Conference Finals just two seasons ago, but took a big step backwards last season, dropping to eighth place and dropping into the Play-In Tournament.
They won both Play-In matches but were quickly eliminated from the postseason in five games by rivals Miami Heat.
The move to acquire Murray ensures the Hawks aren’t frustrated like that again.
But there is some belief that despite speculation that they are primed for another big mid-season move, they are already one of the most overlooked teams in the NBA and could be dangerous because of it.
An improved Eastern Conference could have people sleeping at the Atlanta Hawks
Big successful trades for Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers) — as well as Deandre Ayton and Kevin Durant staying with their respective teams — overshadowed what was the offseason’s big hit when it first happened.
But Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley thinks they may be being overlooked too much at this point.
“There are some expectations for Atlanta, but not much: Vegas has set the over/under at just 45.5 wins. It would be a good season, but the Hawks could design something much bigger.”
The projected win total would be just two games better than last season and four better than in the run-up to the ECF. This just shows how the Orient has improved in that time.
But the Hawks are a team that knows its strengths and weaknesses well.
“Atlanta’s offseason theme was defense,” Buckley says. “That’s why negotiating for Murray made sense. Well, that and its ability to lighten some of the offensive burden borne by Young, potentially resulting in more efficient versions of both players. If they find their chemistry early and the defense can get even in the middle of the efficiency rankings, Atlanta can find the two-way balance needed to navigate another conference final.”
Murray earned his first All-Star nomination after leading the NBA in steals per game last season. He talked about there being no room for individual goals, just winning next season.
Certainly the Hawks feel he should help them win more games – better health too.
As Buckley points out, the Hawks return the vast majority of the core that made that run to the Eastern Conference Finals. And his additions, even beyond Murray, were directed towards the defense in Moe Harkless and Justin Holiday, who acquired in the Kevin Huerter trade.