The Atlanta Hawks are entering the 2022-23 NBA season full of expectations. After surprising the world in 2021 with an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, the team failed to replicate its feat in 2022.
Last season, Atlanta barely made the playoffs, winning twice in the play-in tournament after a 43-39 record. The Hawks ended up losing to the Miami Heat in the first round in five games. Still, with such a young core, fans have many reasons to believe Atlanta will be competing for bigger things in the near future.
It will depend on star Trae Young. The guard comes off his most efficient season in the league. He averaged 28.4 points, 9.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds. He also hit 46% of his field goals, 38.2% on 3-pointers and 90.4% from the free-throw line, all career-best marks. For his performance, Young was selected for his second All-Star Game, plus he made his All-NBA debut.
Although the former Oklahoma Sooner is that guy for Atlanta, the front office made a big move that will certainly make some noise in the league. This new addition should impact right away and improve the team.
With that being said, here is the Atlanta Hawks’ X-factor for the 2022-23 season.
Atlanta Hawks X-Factor: Dejounte Murray
In 2021-22, the NBA saw how good Dejounte Murray really is. The guard had his big breakout year with his first All-Star selection while also finishing second in the Most Improved Player Award voting.
In his career year with the San Antonio Spurs, Murray averaged 21.1 points, 9.2 assists and 8.3 rebounds, all his highest marks. Additionally, he led the league with 2.0 steals a night and broke the franchise record of triple-doubles. However, the Spurs failed to return to the postseason for the third consecutive time.
Leaning toward a rebuilding phase, Gregg Popovich and the front office decided it was best to trade Murray away. The Hawks ended up acquiring him in exchange for Danilo Gallinari and multiple future first-round picks. Since the team included many picks, Atlanta is clearly going all in. The Young-Murray duo could be a great match because of their complementing skill sets.
Due to his size, Young has been a defensive liability since he entered the league. Adding Murray’s length, perimeter defense and rebounding will take away some of the pressure from the Hawks star. The former Washington Husky is the youngest player in NBA history to be named to an All-Defensive Team, achieving the honor in just his second year in the league.
Perhaps Murray’s biggest weakness is his shooting. Last season, he made just 32.7% of his 3-point shots. For his career, he has only hit 33%. Because of that, Young should get more off-ball scoring opportunities while Murray focuses on playmaking and defense.
The addition of Murray could be the final piece to Young’s development. Having an elite defender who can also control the ball should take away some of the pressure from Young’s shoulders. Also, Murray can be a good second-option scorer as his points per game have increased significantly every season.
With Young as the lone star, the Hawks saw they were not a match for teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat. Now, with a two-way player in Murray, Atlanta can finally be a match for those opponents. There are still some questions surrounding how Young and Murray will fit together, so makes the former Spur the X-factor for the Hawks this season.