Spurs: Dejounte Murray prepares for first duel with Trae Young

Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks heads off the court following a game against the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks heads off the court following a game against the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Two of the best young guards in the league will match up against each other for the first time when the San Antonio Spurs play the Atlanta Hawks

It didn’t take long for Dejounte Murray to reintroduce himself to the NBA. Within the first half of play in the San Antonio Spurs opening night win over the New York Knicks, Murray had already shown off every part of his two-way game. Since then he’s been on a tear that has him in early conversations for Most Improved Player of the year.

Murray’s been doing it all for the Spurs so far. He’s leading the team in rebounding, assists, steals, and fourth in points per game. All of this is being done on a minutes restriction that is keeping him from playing more than about 23 minutes per game. Per 36 minutes he’s averaging 21.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per contest.

All together Murray has looked every bit as dynamic as San Antonio could have hoped. He’s proven himself to be worth every penny of the four-year extension he signed earlier this year. And while Murray has come out of the gates running, he’s not the only young guard taking the league by storm.

Before an ankle injury took him out after mid-way through his fourth game of the season Trae Young was on fire. He wasted no time picking up where left off in his thrilling rookie season. He had expanded his range (if that was even possible) and had the Atlanta Hawks looking like a legitimate playoff threat.

Young is one of the most exciting young players the league has had in some time. He’s a rare talent both as a shooter and playmaker, the kind of player who can dice you up with well-placed assists or get Stephen Curry level hot from deep on any given night. Before his minor ankle injury, he was connecting on an unsustainable 50 percent of his three-point attempts.

Thankfully Young’s ankle sprain was only minor. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Trae should be ready to go when the Spurs and Hawks play on Tuesday night. Young credits “Wolverine blood” for his quick recovery. Last time I looked, neither he nor Murray had studied under Professor Charles Xavier but that’s not to say that both wouldn’t fit in with the other talented youngsters at the school for mutants.

Tuesday nights matchup between the Hawks and Spurs will be the very first time that we have seen Murray and Young take the court against one another in the NBA. It’s sure to be an exciting duel between two rising stars with vastly different skillsets.

Both guards are the engine of their team’s offenses but the impact the game in very different ways. Young is the offensive wizard that head coaches dream about. Even if he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn he would still be a playable option at point guard simply based on his ability to dish out dimes. He’s equally adept at firing off no-look passes with either hand, capable of finding the smallest of windows, and has a creative mind that sees unique passing angles before most of his peers.

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Young will flambe your favorite team on offense whenever he wants, but he’s also going to get torched on the defensive end. He’s a better offensive player than Murray is right now but doesn’t hold a candle to him on the defensive end of the floor.

Murray has been a menace on the defense throughout his career and especially this season. His 2.2 steals per game, in around 23 minutes mind you, is good enough for seventh in the league. With a 6’10 wingspan, Murray can envelop most opposing point guards and wreak havoc in passing lanes.

That’s what this game between the Hawks and Spurs will ultimately come down to, can Murray neutralize Young? He should be able to. Young is coming off of that minor ankle sprain and might be a step slower than he usually would be. That, combined with Murray’s length, should give Dejoutne the edge he needs to stay in front of him and regularly contest shots throughout the night.

Regardless of the final score, it will be fascinating to see two equally bright but stylistically different young guards go head to head. Both are the future of their respective organizations and how they go, their teams go. Provided they stay with their respective organizations, they won’t run into each other much over their careers. We should cherish these exciting matchups given how few and far between they may be.

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The two teams tip-off from Atlanta at 6:30 PM, Tuesday night in what is sure to be an exciting matchup between two teams with playoff aspirations.