Atlanta Hawks media day: Dejounte Murray is saying all the right things

New Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray before the CrawsOver Pro-Am (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
New Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray before the CrawsOver Pro-Am (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images) /

In trading a haul of first-round picks for All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray, the Atlanta Hawks aimed to provide a second star next to All-NBA guard Trae Young. The idea is to take the pressure off Young on defense, set him up for easier shots, and maybe more importantly, help set a standard for the team’s work ethic. Based on early returns from the first round of interviews at NBA Media Day, it seems like Dejounte is going to fill this role to perfection.

Media day offered Murray the platform to tell Hawks fans and reporters what he’s really about. That entails his commitment to impacting the city, affinity for playing defense and some of the leadership qualities he learned from building a relationship with LeBron James.

What should stand out for many Hawks fans, however, is his vision for how he fits with his new running mate and what that means for their playing style moving forward.

While he admits that it will be a challenge for both himself and Young, Dejounte shows excitement about the chance to play with such an impactful offensive player. Furthermore, his comments on the potential for both he and Trae to average near double-digit assists have to make your ears perk up if you are an Atlanta Hawks fan. At just 26, it’s clear that Dejounte is wise beyond his years, bringing a Spursian mentality to his new situation in Atlanta.

So what does that look like? Well, Murray went into detail on his playstyle and the way he intends to impact Atlanta:

"You’re gonna see the ball moving. I think that’s the No. 1 thing — playing the right way. A lot of excitement, playing defense, and like I always said, I love defense and I believe the best offense is getting a stop and getting out and running.I’m just excited. We’ve got a lot of weapons around us, dudes that can do a bunch of things. It starts on the defensive end and it will translate to the offensive end, and it will be exciting."

Dejounte Murray’s leadership is already helping to develop the Atlanta Hawks.

Coming from the San Antonio Spurs — a place that Murray has credited with saving him and helping him grow into the man he is today – Dejounte has first-hand experience with a winning culture. He’s already taking everything that was instilled in him over the first six years of his career and applying it to the situation he’s in with the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s been a rocky road for the Atlanta Hawks. Although the team overachieved and made the Eastern Conference Finals two seasons ago, there have been several reports of locker room conflict and frustrations over recent years. The team fell back to Earth in the 2022 postseason, being eliminated by the Miami Heat in the first round of the Playoffs.

Atlanta has a strong foundation with depth, versatility, shooting and defensive-minded players throughout the roster. Murray bolsters that further as an elite guard defender to pair with Young, whose biggest weakness is his horrid defense. If these players can set their individual success aside to play alongside each other, the sky’s the limit for the Hawks in years to come.

That’s going to take sacrifice and unselfishness — two qualities that Dejounte Murray brings in droves. In fact, his demeanor and drive to compete at the highest level are already standing out to head coach Nate McMillan, who has seen the ups and downs of this group firsthand since being hired as an assistant in 2020.

Let’s be frank — two ball-dominant guards make for a bit of a clunky fit. Murray hasn’t been much of a shooter to this point in his career while Young tends to dominate time of possession. This isn’t going to be a perfect pairing overnight, but Murray and Young have shown the commitment to making it work together. That’s what matters most of all.

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No matter what their record ends up looking like, the Atlanta Hawks are going to experience a substantial boost to their culture thanks to Dejounte Murray’s leadership.