After the 2022 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs created a bit of a stir around the league. They traded first-time All-Star Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks amid speculation about Gregg Popovich's coaching future. He's on board with the rebuild that the organization is very much undergoing after such a move.
The Spurs traded Murray and Jock Londale to the Hawks in exchange for Danilo Gallinari, three first-round picks, and a first-round pick swap. San Antonio is waiving Gallinari since he was included just for salary matching purposes.
Why would the Spurs trade a 25-year-old coming off a season with averages of 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists, and 2.0 steals? With Murray having two years remaining on a contract where the CBA makes signing an extension financial malpractice for the All-Star guard, the Spurs were in a position to make a trade. San Antonio was restricted to offering just 120 percent of his final-year $17.7 million salary for the first year of his next contract. He is going to earn much more than that on his next contract.
Murray would have reached unrestricted free agency after the final two years of his contract played out with the possibility of signing elsewhere. In such a situation, the Spurs would have been scratching their heads wondering why they didn't take a trade package sooner and would then be facing a rebuild.
Trae Young and Murray had been discussing the possibility of teaming up for weeks prior to the trade taking place. It doesn't take long to put the pieces together that Murray already had a wandering eye after losing in the play-in tournament.
By trading Murray now, the Spurs are able to fully embrace the rebuilding process ahead of what will be a loaded 2023 NBA Draft class. It's no guarantee they land an elite prospect they seek given the recent changes to the lottery odds. Regardless, it offers a more positive future than being a middling team in the play-in tournament.
The national media grades were a mixed bag for how they perceived the return for the Spurs:
CBS Sports: Incomplete
If the Spurs' tank succeeds, and they wind up with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, then this could go down as a league-altering trade. Wembanyama has a chance to be that special. However, the deal is putting a lot of stock in winning the draft lottery, which is no guarantee given the new flattened odds.
I understand if Spurs fans are disappointed about trading an All-Star who won't turn 26 until September and has two years left on his contract. However, the value San Antonio got in return would have been difficult to turn down. As Murray moved toward unrestricted free agency and either bumping up his salary near the max or heading elsewhere, his trade value would have diminished rapidly.
Sports Illustrated: B-
At first blush, I didn’t really love this trade for San Antonio, and I still don’t. I wanted to give them a lower grade but compromised to a B- after extensive discussions with my SI colleagues Jeremy Woo and Michael Pina. Three firsts is a really good haul for the Spurs. It’s what the Pelicans acquired for Jrue Holiday, who is a better player than Murray. At the same time, I can’t bring myself to celebrate San Antonio essentially giving up on a homegrown star in favor of a tank.
The Athletic: D-
The only thing keeping this from being an outright F for the Spurs is they will seemingly sink so far in the standings to possess a 14-or-so percent chance to land the No. 1 pick in 2023 and select Wembanyama. If they end up tanking their way to that lottery luck, then this is a much more favorable trade and grade. Not familiar with Wembanyama? Think if Rudy Gobert as a prospect had guard skills instead of hoping screen assists becomes an accepted statistic. (It hasn’t).