The Atlanta Hawks made a bold move in June by acquiring All-Star guard Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs.
The Hawks paid a hefty price — three first-round selections, a pick swap and Danilo Gallinari — to acquire Murray, but Atlanta is banking on the 26-year-old offering an immediate return on their investment.
The first opportunity comes Wednesday night when Atlanta hosts the Houston Rockets in the season opener for both teams.
Murray had a breakout season in 2021-22 that resulted in his first All-Star nod. He averaged 21.1 points, 9.2 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game — all career bests — in 68 starts. He finished third in the NBA with 2.0 steals per game.
“It’s go time,” Murray said. “It’s the NBA, it’s no joke, each and every night it’s going to be a battle, and you have to be ready to go out and produce and do what you do.”
Murray joins a potent backcourt with All-NBA guard Trae Young, who averaged career-high totals in points (28.4) and assists (9.7) in 2021-22.
De’Andre Hunter averaged 21.2 points and Young contributed 15.4 and 6.0 assists in the playoffs, however the Hawks’ stay was short after falling to the Miami Heat in five games in the first round.
“I definitely feel like every time you lose, you can learn lessons, as you experience different things,” Young told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “So, I think sometimes you got to go through certain things. I mean, it could be this is the thing we had to go through to get to the top. But who knows? I mean, you got to wait for the season to play out.”
Clint Capela (team-leading 11.9 rebounds per game), John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic provide a presence in the front court for Atlanta, which traded former first-round pick Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings in the offseason.
The Rockets have nowhere to go but up after finishing last season with the NBA’s worst record at 20-62. Houston limped out of the blocks, laboring through a 15-game losing skid.
The Rockets relied heavily on their young and unproven core last season, and they showed their faith in one of their stars — starting point guard Kevin Porter Jr. — by signing him to a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension on Monday.
“This is my home,” Porter said. “H-Town, since I’ve been here, they gave me an opportunity and they welcomed me with open arms. And since Day One they’ve been with me, and I’m with them. It’s just reassurance that I’m here.”
Porter averaged 15.6 points and 6.2 assists in 61 games last season. He surged at the end of the season, averaging 28.7 points, 7.4 assists and 7.3 rebounds over the team’s last seven games.
Jalen Green scored at least 30 points in six of the last seven games last season.
Jae’Sean Tate showed promise for the Rockets, who added a pair of forwards in the 2022 NBA Draft. No. 3 pick Jabari Smith and No. 17 selection Tari Eason will be tasked with learning on the fly in 2022-23.
General manager Rafael Stone said he can’t remember any former NBA player who compares to Smith, who starred at Auburn as a freshman. Head coach Stephen Silas said he’s not asking Smith to do much offensively. Instead, he told the rookie to lead with defense and the scoring will come.
“He’s such a gifted defensive player, like now,” Silas said. “Him as a defender is what I’m so, so excited about. Our defense needs to be better and he’s a big piece of that.”
–Field Level Media