It's hard to believe, but it was only three years ago when the Atlanta Hawks, a plucky upstart 5-seed, made a run all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they gave the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks all they could handle over a competitive six game series. The catalyst of all this Eastern Conference Finals push was Trae Young, who over the course of Atlanta's 18 game postseason run became just the second player in NBA history to average at least 28 points and 9 assists per game during a single postseason run of at least 15 games, joining LeBron James on that very short list.

The 2021 NBA Playoffs were supposed to catapult the Hawks to frequent contendership in the Eastern Conference, and Trae Young to stardom. Neither of those league-wide expectations have come to fruition. The Hawks have since gone 120-126 in the regular season, managing to win just three Playoff games total in that stretch. And for as statistically prolific as Trae Young has been throughout his NBA career — in six NBA seasons, Young is averaging 25.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game — the general feeling around the NBA is that the undersized point guard may not necessarily be the winning piece we believed he could be when Atlanta made a push to the Eastern Conference Finals.

After a disappointing 2023-24 season that ended without a Playoff berth for the first time since the 2019-20 COVID-shortened season, the Hawks now have a big decision to make this offseason. The arrival of Dejounte Murray two summers ago was supposed to be the next step in the evolution of the Atlanta Hawks. But the Murray/Young partnership has floundered, and the Hawks have been backed into a corner where trading one of the two seems like their best course of action.

The Hawks spent plenty to bring Murray in, and his trade value has since depreciated. This leaves Atlanta in the position where they need to provide an answer to a difficult question: is it time to trade Trae Young?

I'm not convinced yet that Atlanta will trade Young during the 2024 offseason, but it's a much more realistic possibility than it was a year ago at this time. And since that's the case, it's time to look at four potential trade packages the Hawks could be offered to move their All-Star point guard.

Trade partner #1: San Antonio Spurs 

To San Antonio: Trae Young

To Atlanta: Keldon Johnson, Devonte Graham, Atlanta's 2025 1st Round Pick, Atlanta's 2027 1st Round Pick

Anything and everything the San Antonio Spurs do over the course of the offseason will be looked at under a magnifying glass, thanks to their seven-and-a-half foot tall alien who is taking the NBA by storm. Offensively, a hypothetical Victor Wembanyama/Trae Young partnership would be dazzling, with Young throwing lord knows how many lobs to Wemby each game. And with Wemby protecting the paint behind Trae Young, Young's defensive limitations may not be as crippling. In time, Victor Wembanyama will be a top five defense all by himself, no matter who else you put around him.

For Atlanta, the idea of retaining their 2025 and 2027 1st Round picks — sent to San Antonio in the deal for Dejounte Murray — would be enticing, as would the idea of snagging Devonte Graham's expiring contract, and seeing what Keldon Johnson could develop into. Johnson, who scored 22 points per game on 45 percent shooting for the Spurs last year, has been one of the players most impacted by Wembanyama's arrival in San Antonio.

The only issue here is earlier this week, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express News took to Twitter to share his belief that the Spurs won't be in play for Young, saying, “There are a lot of different ways this can go, and a lot of different stars they might end up targeting, but they’re not going to be the team that meets Atlanta’s price for Trae Young.”

Trade partner #2: Los Angeles Lakers 

To Los Angeles: Trae Young

To Atlanta: D'Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, Jalen Hood-Schifino, 2029 1st Round Pick, 2030 Pick Swap, 2031 1st Round Pick

As usual, the Los Angeles Lakers will be in the mix, at least theoretically, for any pseudo-star who becomes available, and Trae Young qualifies as such. Even before LeBron James joined the Lakers in 2018, LA was frequently trying to get themselves involved in those trade conversations, and that's been kicked in overdrive since the arrival of The King coming up on six years ago. With LeBron not under contract beyond this season, the Lakers could be forced into making a win-now move like this one in order to keep the soon-to-be 22-year veteran in LA.

D'Angelo Russell's contract will be expiring at the end of the 2024-25 season, as will Jalen Hood-Schifino's, so the only player that the Hawks would be taking on for more than one year would be Hachimura, whose 3-year, $51 million contract was necessary for salary matching purposes in this deal. The draft picks the Lakers would be parting ways with would be the biggest prize for the Hawks. By 2029, it's a very real possibility that both LeBron James and Anthony Davis will no longer be in LA — or the NBA in general — so who knows what the Lakers roster will look like at that point in time.

Trade partner #3: New Orleans Pelicans

To New Orleans: Trae Young

To Atlanta: CJ McCollum, 2024 Top 10 Protected 1st Round Pick, 2027 1st Round Pick

The Pelicans are a wild card option that could potentially end up as a possible trade partner not just for Trae Young, but for any number of players around the league depending on what happens on Friday night when they face the Sacramento Kings in the Play-In Game for the 8th seed in the Western Conference. The Pels are annually a high expectations team, but ever since Zion Williamson arrived, New Orleans has fallen short of those expectations. At some point in time, the Pelicans have to consider moving some of their chips to the center of the table and doing something to move the needle. Maybe Trae Young will turn out to be that needle mover.

CJ McCollum will be an expiring contract in 2025-26, and he's the type of player with the type of contract that contenders will be eager to bring in for the stretch run of the season, should Atlanta want to move him. But until then, he should theoretically be able to play alongside Dejounte Murray, giving the Hawks a moderately intriguing backcourt duo.

Trade partner #4: Brooklyn Nets 

To Brooklyn: Trae Young

To Atlanta: Ben Simmons, Cam Thomas, Day'Ron Sharpe, Philadelphia's 2027 Top 8 Protected 1st Round Pick, Phoenix's 2029 1st Round Pick

Assuming the Nets pick up the team options of Cam Thomas ($4 million) and Day'Ron Sharpe ($3.9 million) for the 2024-25 season, this trade works from a money standpoint, and in all honesty, if I had to venture a guess as to where Trae Young will end up (if he's traded at all), Brooklyn would probably be my prediction. The Nets are in need of a star, someone who could potentially grab some eyeballs and attention away from the New York Knicks. Thanks to Atlanta's 2021 postseason run, Trae Young is already a villain in the eyes of Knicks fans, so seeing him a guaranteed four times a year would make for some enticing basketball.

Ben Simmons' trade value may be at an all-time low, but he's on a big contract that's expiring at the end of the 2024-25 season, and the money only works if Simmons is in the deal. Cam Thomas and Day'Ron Sharpe are young pieces that the Hawks could opt to hold on to on longer-term deals — Thomas especially is intriguing given his dynamic scoring ability — and that 2029 Phoenix 1st rounder could prove to be one hell of a pick by the time it materializes.