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Where Could Trae Young’s Next Home Be?

© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With a 16-23 record, good for 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings, the Atlanta Hawks have floundered this season. Subsequently, while most eyes are focused on a potential trade involving his backcourt mate, the Trae Young era in Atlanta may be grinding to a screeching halt.

That isn’t to say that Dejounte Murray, whom the team acquired in the 2022 offseason, is the better player of the two. Certainly, he’s a bit more reliable defensively than Young, is keener to get the ball out of his lands, has better physical traits, and is more efficient. Trae’s scoring and playmaking prowess is not to be ignored, as players who can or have performed at his level are few and far between. Furthermore, Young has a higher trade value than Murray due to his high-scoring performances and 3-point barrages in an offensive-minded league.

Yet, Murray has multiple suitors— from the Los Angeles Lakers to the San Antonio Spurs– and the Hawks are looking to acquire two first-round picks in exchange. However, a Trae Young trade is certainly still a possibility.

Is The Wrong Guard On The Trade Block?

Speaking purely about their performances on the court, Trae Young has undoubtedly been more potent than Dejounte Murray. Young is averaging 27.5 points, 10.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 36.3 percent from 3. It hasn’t been a career season for Ice Trae, per se. In fact, he performed at a similar level in his two All-Star seasons. Nonetheless, even with Murray averaging 20.8 points, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 38.6 percent from 3 this season, Young’s production is a head above his. Murray is more efficient though, shooting 46.7 percent from the field this season while Young shoots 42.2 percent from the field. He also takes better care of the ball, averaging just 2.1 turnovers per game to Young’s 4.2 turnovers per game.

Looking at their approach, while Young is a high-usage playmaker and shot-creator, he takes a number of ill-advised field goal attempts that have led to him shooting 42.7 percent from the floor and 34.7 percent from 3 over the past two seasons. Furthermore, while multiple teammates would look much better with Young setting them up for shots in a Tyrese Haliburton-esque way, he’s more focused on scoring the points himself.

In essence, while Young may be the better overall talent, Murray seems like the better team player. This seems to be even more true when factoring in not just this season but their career as a whole.

Birds of a Feather?

Let’s back up a bit.

Midway through the 2022-23 season, Trae Young and former Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan had what could be described as a turbulent relationship. Myriad factors played a role in the mutual frustration. On the one hand, the Hawks had a losing record after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals under his helm in 2021. Furthermore, the emergence of one-time All-Star Dejounte Murray as a locker room leader seemed to spark a power struggle. To add, when considering McMillan’s coaching philosophy and Young’s infamously porous defense, it’s not difficult to see the now 59-year-old becoming somewhat disenchanted by Young.

Eventually, McMillan and the Hawks would part ways as reporters cited locker room friction as the primary reason for the split. Former Utah Jazz head man Quin Snyder took over as head coach, signing a five-year contract.

First Time’s an Accident, Second Time’s A Coincidence?

Due to Trae Young’s history with his first NBA head coach– Lloyd Pierce– he wasn’t out of the water just yet. Questions have swirled about whether he had earned the coach-killer label, as Pierce is respected around the league (like Nate McMillan) but had also become disenchanted by Young. It all seemed to be coming to a head in the 2023 NBA offseason.

Reports began to surface that the Atlanta Hawks would be monitoring Young’s behavior that summer, essentially in an effort to see if he truly had the intangibles to lead the franchise. In response, Young was quiet throughout the summer, working his way back into the safe zone behind the scenes. Yet, after discussions about trading Dejounte Murray last offseason in an effort to fix potential chemistry issues on- and off-court, the Hawks pivoted away from that approach and offered him a four-year, $120 million contract extension. To make matters even more interesting, after the conclusion of the 2023 NBA Draft, the Hawks rookies would single out Murray as the one who reached out to them initially and who they leaned on as a leader rather than Young, the face of the franchise.

San Antonio’s role

So, how do the San Antonio Spurs– who traded Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks in 2022 for three first-round picks and a first-round pick swap– figure into this saga?

By trading for Trae Young rather than Murray and offering up their 2024 lottery pick, currently 2nd overall in the 2024 NBA Draft, as collateral.

Here’s how the trade may look:

Hawks receive— unprotected 2024 first-round pick; top-6 protected 2024 first-round pick (via Raptors); top-10 protected 2025 first-round pick (via Bulls); Cedi Osman; Sandro Mamukelashvili; Devonte’ Graham; Doug McDermott

Spurs receive— Trae Young, 2029 first-round pick (top-8 protected)

The End of the Trae Young Era In Atlanta

The result of this Trae Young trade leaves the San Antonio Spurs as the better team for the remainder of the season, with Trae Young and 2023 No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama beginning their journey as San Antonio’s star duo. Notably, the position that the Spurs need most is point guard, with Young himself commenting on how many open shots Wembanyama should have.

Furthermore, reports have begun to surface that Young would actually welcome a trade to San Antonio.

The End of the Joel Embiid Era in Philly?

This is where it gets tricky because, just like Trae Young in Atlanta, Joel Embiid could be on his way out of the door in Philadelphia despite being the face of the franchise. To that point, should the Philadelphia 76ers have another disappointing playoff run, both Embiid and the Sixers could start to look around the league for his new home. While the 2023 NBA MVP has been tied to New York, as many stars are, the Atlanta Hawks could have the right pieces for a deal with or without trading Young first. It would all depend on whether the Sixers preferred to have draft capital (for a rebuild) or a player in the prime of his career (for a retool).

With Embiid in mind, a Trae Young trade is more likely to take place during the offseason than in-season. Especially as the Hawks, Sixers, and San Antonio Spurs could opt for a three-team trade rather than two separate two-team deals.

Here’s what a three-team trade could look like:

Hawks receive— Joel Embiid, Tre Jones

Spurs receive— Trae Young

Sixers receiveClint Capela, Keldon Johnson, Devonte’ Graham, unprotected 2024 first-round pick; top-6 protected 2024 first-round pick (via Raptors); top-10 protected 2025 first-round pick (via Bulls)

The Dawn of a New Era

Of course, such deals are far easier to hypothesize than to put together. Nonetheless, should a deal of this nature go down, the Atlanta Hawks should be more than satisfied.

Trading an All-Star isn’t easy but getting an MVP in return and at a position that’s been heavily critiqued for the past two seasons is a major boon for the franchise. That the Hawks are also able to get heady point guard Tre Jones in this trade scenario is also a key addition.

The resulting starting lineup for Atlanta could be Jones, Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, Jalen Johnson, and Joel Embiid. However, Murray is capable of running an offense as well, and primarily played point guard until suiting up for the Hawks. Furthermore, the awkwardness of the Young-Murray backcourt could dissuade them from pursuing another dual-point guard backcourt.

Consequently, Atlanta could start Bogdan Bogdanovic instead of Jones, enhancing the firepower and length of their starting lineup.

It’s never quite this simple but with Embiid averaging 7.4 points more than Young this season and Jones averaging just 1.3 points fewer than Capela, there would seem to be a 6.1 point per game increase in the team’s production. When considering the efficiency of Embiid and Jones, it seems even more likely that the offense would improve.

The defense may improve as well with Murray moving back to his original position and being able to use his 6-foot-5 frame to wreak havoc against smaller opponents as he did before. To that point, though Capela has been one of the better shot-blockers in the league throughout his career, he’s not on Embiid’s level defensively.

The Verdict

There’s plenty of reason to be apprehensive about moving on from a player of Trae Young’s caliber, even if you were guaranteed to get a player such as Joel Embiid out of it. After all, there have been plenty of blockbuster moves that have backfired for NBA teams. Nonetheless, when factoring in the team’s play, chemistry, needs, and opportunities, there’s arguably just as much rationale for moving on from the former fifth-overall pick. On the court, the product would be better on both ends. The chemistry would be better as well. Lastly, comparing the Philadelphia 76ers’ current roster to the Atlanta Hawks’ current roster, there’s no reason to believe that the Hawks wouldn’t achieve similar success behind Embiid.

While the upcoming trade deadline will be one to monitor for Atlanta, it’s the upcoming offseason that could see them making a real splash move, potentially including a Trae Young trade.


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