The Atlanta Hawks have had a nice start to the 2022-23 season, which isn’t necessarily surprising after their frantic offseason of work. After losing in the first round of playoffs last season, the Hawks knew that they had some work to do if they wanted to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals like they did the season before.
Lo and behold, the Hawks put together a big offseason, and they entered the season looking like one of the best teams in the East. They had a strong core group already, with players like Trae Young, John Collins, and Clint Capela leading the way, but their big trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Dejounte Murray felt like a move that could push them over the top.
Considering how they are 8-5, good for fourth place in the East right now, it’s safe to say that that has been the case early on. A big reason why is because of the strong play from their backcourt duo in Young and Murray, and while it was expected they would be a great pairing this season, their success early on has been a bit of a surprise for the Hawks and their fans. Let’s take a look at why that is the case.
Hawks pleasant surprise: The success of the backcourt duo of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray
The addition of Murray to the Hawks backcourt made a lot of sense. Murray is one of the best all around players in the game, and his ability to facilitate offense, score on his own, and play lockdown defense, was exactly what Atlanta needed. But there were questions as to how Atlanta would handle having two ball-dominant players running their offense.
So far it has worked perfectly. Neither player has been too overbearing on the other so far, and it’s resulted in the Hawks having a very dynamic offense. Young has struggled with his efficiency, but has still managed to make a big impact (27.4 PPG, 9.3 APG, 3.2 RPG, 37.9 FG%) while Murray has looked like the exact same player he was last season with San Antonio (21.7 PPG, 8 APG, 6.3 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 45.5 FG%).
The two have excelled at knowing when to take their own shots and default to others. They both are averaging over eight assists per game, which is crucial because nobody else is averaging over two a game on Atlanta right now. The Hawks knew they needed a secondary playmaker, and the addition of Murray has given Atlanta all the playmaking they need.
Spacing out Young and Murray’s time on the court is also a big piece of this too. They obviously aren’t going to play every second together, which is crucial because, again, they are the Hawks two primary facilitators. Keeping the ball moving for the second unit is crucial too, which is part of the reason they have managed to remain individually productive without defaulting to the other.
The initial concern was that it would take awhile for both guys to adjust to playing alongside each other given how they both were the focal point of their offenses last season. Now, they both have to accommodate for a guy who is going to take 20 shots a night. That takes time, and while Young and Murray have had their ups and downs to start, they have both managed to make the transition look relatively seamless.
Keeping everyone involved is going to be an important piece of the puzzle, though, as Young and Murray are taking on a very large brunt of the shot diet right now. Collins has been very underutilized in the early going, and Capela and De’Andre Hunter both loom as guys who need to get shots too. Young and Murray have done a good job keeping everyone involved, but considering how Young is shooting below 40 percent, it may be worth getting some of these other guys more looks.
While other teams have struggled, the Hawks have absorbed the bumps in the road and managed to emerge as a top team in the East in the early going. Considering the way the season has started out for many other teams, that cannot be taken for granted, and much of that is due to the success their new backcourt duo in Young and Murray have had thus far.
Atlanta looks poised to contend this season, and their success will depend in large part on whether or not Young and Murray can keep on playing at this high level. The good news is that it looks like they have already figured out how to play alongside each other, and that should allow them to continue to dominate throughout the rest of the season.