When the San Antonio Spurs made the decision to trade Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks this summer, the trade was, to put it lightly, controversial among Spurs fans. Now, months after the trade, it's looking more and more like the Spurs made the right move in cashing in on their All-Star point guard.
It started over the summer when Dejounte's villain arc reached new heights with his behavior in pro-am leagues and very public bad-mouthing of the Spurs organization. The trade began to look even better once the season started when the Hawks showed that they were very much the same uninspiring team they were last year, despite the addition of Murray,
At a high level, the Hawks are one of the most disappointing teams in the entire NBA. They're 19-22, have just a handful more wins than the actively rebuilding Spurs, and sit just on the fringe of the Eastern Conference play-in. It's been a sharp and painful fall for the team that made the Eastern Conference Finals just two seasons ago.
In what was a thrilling read for Spurs fans and surely a splash of cold water for Hawks supporters, The Athletic's Sam Amick (subscription required) recently pulled back the curtain on the Hawks' rampant in-house dysfunction. The chaos that Amick revealed is great news for San Antonio but should seriously concern everyone rooting for Atlanta.
Hawks' in-house dysfunction is great news for Spurs' future draft picks
Amick revealed that it wasn't President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk who had pulled the trigger on the Dejounte Murray trade. Far from it. Schlenk has been moved to an advisory role and, per Amick's reporting, is no longer a part of Atlanta's operation in any way.
No, the architect behind the trade that sent three first-round picks and a first-round pick swap to San Antonio, mortgaging the Hawks' future in exchange for a fringe All-Star was none other than Nick Ressler, the 27-year-old son of the Hawks' current owner Tony Ressler.
Amick said that GM Landry Fields and several other front office members had supported the deal. But what are they supposed to say when the son of their boss, the same son who has rapidly increased his influence over the team since coming aboard in 2018 and, per Amick's reporting, played a pivotal role in Schlenk's exile, is actively pushing for something? Their options were to get on board or look for their next opportunity.
Frankly, Nick Ressler's rise in the Hawks organization has been nothing but great news for the Spurs and should serve as inspiration for all the Twitter GMs out there. He's actively proving that with little more than a finance degree from Georgetown, a cursory knowledge of cap mechanics, and a few hours in the trade machine, you, too, may someday be able to destroy the future of an NBA franchise. Well, provided that your dad owns the team, but still.
Amick didn't end there. In his conversation with Murray, the Spurs former point guard noted the stark difference between how things are handled in Atlanta and what he was used to in San Antonio. Referring to all the chaos surrounding the Hawks this season, Murray said the following.
""I mean, there’s a lot going on (that’s) non-basketball, and then with basketball, you’ve got guys in trade rumors. It’s obviously more than...I wouldn’t say more than what I expected, but more than where I came from in San Antonio where everything was just not as loud" "- Dejounte Murray
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the situation from the player the Hawks just traded three first-round picks for. Trouble in paradise? That's too bad, at least for Atlanta.
Given the Hawks' struggles, I'd be incredibly surprised if Murray didn't have his eye on his impending free agency in the summer of 2024. If Atlanta can't turn things around and isn't the contender he'd hoped for, why would he stay? He didn't choose to go there; he was traded. He'd be well within his rights to explore free agency, if for no other reason than to take an active role in controlling where he plays out his next contract.
Murray isn't the only star who could leave Atlanta in the next few years. According to Bleacher Reports' Chris Haynes, executives around the league believe that Young will be the next superstar to force a trade if the Hawks don't make major improvements and make a playoff appearance this season. And let's not forget to acknowledge the perpetually involved in trade rumors, John Collins. The same Collins has an upcoming player option and can move to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2025.
In summation, the Hawks front office is effectively led by the owner's son. The same inexperienced son has a whopping four years of tenure with an NBA franchise. The superstar who they sold their future to acquire can leave in the summer of 2024. Their other superstar may actively force a trade if they don't turn things around soon. And their third-tier star can leave in the summer of 2025.
And all of this is set to come to a head right as the Spurs take control of Atlanta's first-round picks in 2025, 2026, and 2027. When I say that this couldn't have turned out better for San Antonio, I really, really mean it. Every Spurs fan can kick their feet back, watch the chaos unfold, and laugh, knowing that the more the Hawks tear themselves apart, the brighter the Spurs' future becomes.