by Reylan A. Loberternos
The San Antonio Spurs have agreed in principle to trade guard Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks for veteran forward Danilo Gallinari and three future first round picks. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the deal includes a pick swap.
The draft picks that San Antonio will receive include the Charlotte Hornets’ protected 2023 first round pick that Atlanta got in a previous trade. The other two first round picks, 2025 and 2027, are reportedly unprotected. The Spurs will also have the right to swap picks with the Hawks in 2026.
Coming off a stellar breakout season, Murray, 25, averaged career highs 21.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists, and 2.0 steals per game and was chosen for his first All Star appearance. He is set to receive $16.6M in the upcoming 2022-2023 season and is under contract through 2023-2024. After which, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
Instead of facing the possibility of losing their prized guard for nothing, San Antonio chose to sell high and capitalize on Murray’s soaring trade value, which could significantly drop after this season. The Spurs front office are playing the long game, accumulating draft assets along the way.
They are said to have set their eyes on the talent-laden 2023 draft class that includes the 7’2" French teen sensation Victor Wembanyama, who is playing for Spurs great Tony Parker’s team ASVEL of the LNV Pro A and Euroleague.
Nineteen-year-old Canadian Josh Primo, the Spurs’ 12th overall pick in last year’s draft, is expected to fill the shoes left by Murray, along with Tre Jones and rookie Blake Wesley, who was the 25th overall pick in the recent draft. Primo has shown flashes of playmaking capabilities in his first season with the Spurs and many pundits consider him as the Spurs’ point guard of the future.
Restricted free agent guard Lonnie Walker IV could see himself in a different uniform at the start of the season, if another team offers him a contract that the Spurs would not be inclined to match. Rookie Malaki Branham, the 20th overall pick, serves as the contingency if and when that happens.
San Antonio drafted versatile forward Jeremy Sochan 9th overall in the 2022 NBA Rookie Draft. His versatility and defensive acumen addresses a major problem that has plagued the Spurs in recent years. This allows Olympic Gold medalist Keldon Johnson to play his natural small forward position.
Gregg Popovich will have an imposing defensive lineup of Primo, Vassell, Johnson, Sochan, and Poeltl. They may choose to tank this season to have a better chance at snagging Wembanyama, while also providing valuable minutes to their young guns to gain the much needed experience and court time. If things go well and surprise everyone by winning and making the playoffs with this very young core, they will still have a bevy of draft assets and players to offer.
Murray, for his part, will form a formidable backcourt tandem with All NBA guard Trae Young in Atlanta. The Hawks have long sought a secondary ballhandler to allow Young to play off-the-ball. Murray’s playmaking will definitely take much of the load off of Young on the offensive end, while also boosting the team’s overall defense.