NBA Season Preview 2022-23: Can Dejounte Murray make the Atlanta Hawks a contender?

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The Atlanta Hawks made one of the splashiest moves of the offseason, trading for Dejounte Murray. Will it be enough to make them a contender?

After a shocking run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021, expectations were sky-high for the Hawks. But injuries took a toll, their win percentage dropped slightly and the 2021-22 season ended with a loss to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Trae Young is an elite offensive engine but defense continued to be a major issue and they surrendered 115.4 points per 100 possessions to the Heat across those five first-round games. This offseason the Hawks made a major trade for Dejounte Murray, looking to shore up some of those defensive issues, and managed to pull it off without sending out John Collins. This young core has plenty of upside, and they’ll be looking to break into the top tier of Eastern Conference contenders.

Atlanta Hawks offseason overview

Players in:

  • Dejounte Murray
  • Justin Holiday
  • A.J. Griffin
  • Frank Kaminsky
  • Aaron Holiday
  • Mo Harkless
  • Jarrett Culver
  • Chris Silva

Players out:

  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Kevin Huerter
  • Gorgui Dieng
  • Kevin Knox
  • Lou Williams
  • Delon Wright

The biggest move for the Hawks this offseason was trading for Dejounte Murray. He’s a big defensive upgrade in the backcourt and should really help the Hawks at that end. However, their depth looks a bit thinner with both Gallinari and Huerter gone and Murray will have to navigate a new offensive role without the ball in his hands as much.

Atlanta Hawks projected rotation

Dejounte Murray takes over as the starting shooting guard, in theory sharing creation duties and allowing Trae Young more time to explore playing off the ball. The starting lineup is solid but the bench is relying a lot on Justin Holiday and some development from Onyeka Onkongwu.

PG: Trae Young
SG: Dejounte Murray
SF: De’Andre Hunter
PF: John Collins
C: Clint Capela

Bench:

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic
  • Onyeka Okongwu
  • Justin Holiday
  • Aaron Holiday
  • Mo Harkless
  • Frank Kaminsky
  • A.J. Griffin

Best case and worst case scenario for the Atlanta Hawks

The best-case scenario for the Hawks is a dominant, MVP-caliber season from Trae Young, a seamless fit for Dejounte Murray and health up and down the rotation. Collins, Hunter and Murray work as efficient complementary threats and an upgraded defense push them towards 50 wins and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The worst-case scenario for the Hawks is an extended injury absence for another in the starting lineup, moving everyone on the bench up a slot or two into a level of primacy they’re not ready for. The defensive improvements don’t quite come together and while they can hang with the best in the league, consistency eludes them and they drop towards the play-in tournament.

X-Factor: What will the Atlanta Hawks get from Onyeka Okongwu?

Onkongwu, the No. 6 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, missed most of the first half of last season recovering from a torn labrum but impressed when healthy and was able to make himself an important part of the team’s rotation down the stretch. He finished the season averaging 14.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes, shooting 69.0 percent from the field.

His minutes will be capped playing behind Capela and Collins but he’s a disruptive defensive big man with plenty of offensive upside. He’s had precious few opportunities to work as a spot-up threat or pick-and-pop but he has nice touch on his jumper and he’s now 15-of-31 across two seasons on shots between eight and 16 feet from the basket. He’s still working out the nuances of controlling the floor on defense but his instincts and tools are special and consistent reps could help him blossom this year. If he continues developing it will only strengthen the Hawks’ defense, particularly in minutes when Capela is on the bench, and give them a real three-big rotation so they won’t have to rely much on Kaminsky.

Atlanta Hawks predicted record and finish

The Hawks should make some marginal improvements this season and pick up a few extra wins over last season’s record and avoid the play-in tournament. But they’re still a tier below the top teams in the East — 43-36, Sixth in the Eastern Conference.

One reason the Atlanta Hawks are worth watching this season

Trae Young. You may not like the way he carries himself or the incessant foul-seeking. You may not enjoy watching him “play” defense, dying on every screen like an overly dramatic two-year-old who doesn’t like what’s for dinner. But two or three times a night he’s going to make a play that takes your breath away — nutmegging a defender, a buzzer-beating 3 from 10 feet behind the line, throwing a pass at an angle you still can’t really comprehend after multiple replays. Young has his flaws but he’s a perpetual highlight machine and even if you don’t have any rooting interest in the Hawks or their opponent on a random Tuesday night, he’s worth tuning in for.

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