One month has passed since the San Antonio Spurs traded All-Star Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks, and it remains a controversial decision. It's easy to see why. Murray was a beloved Spur who seemed to be very loyal to the team. He was also another in a line of homegrown stars, and trading him seemed to go against how the team operates.
Then there’s what the Spurs got in return for Murray. To some, they got a lot, and to others, not so much. The team's decision also sets a promising rebuild back and all but ensures they will be bad for a few more seasons. It's a lot to process, and it's fair to wonder if trading Murray was the right call.
This summer has already seen several trades where multiple first-round picks changed teams. The Spurs got three and a pick swap, for Murray, and then there was the Rudy Gobert trade. In return for Gobert, the Jazz received four firsts, a pick swap, two recent first-round selections, and three other players.
Gobert and Murray are obviously very different players, but there's a big difference in the haul received for each. Murray is 25, on a cheap contract for two more seasons, and still improving. On the other hand, Gobert is 30, will be overpaid for the next four seasons, and is slowly declining. One would think that Murray would've fetched more than Gobert, but the Spurs didn’t receive anything near what the Jazz got.
I’m willing to chalk that up to Danny Ainge being a ruthless negotiator, but then there’s the impending Donovan Mitchell deal. That could determine whether the Spurs got enough for Murray since Mitchell is a more comparable player.
Mitchell has three years remaining on his deal and is a 25-year-old All-Star guard like Murray but has been a star for longer. To Murray’s credit, he’s cheaper and a more well-rounded player, but the Jazz are apparently seeking seven firsts rounders.
The decision to trade Murray is already looking worse
Many fans have rationalized the Spurs' trading Murray by saying that he wouldn't have signed an extension with the team. Technically, that's true, but it didn't mean that he was going to leave after his contract ended. Murray wasn't going to sign an extension to his current contract since it wouldn't give him a big raise.
Instead, he apparently wants to hit free agency and sign a new deal entirely, probably something in the $200 million range. If the Spurs were willing to pay Murray, then that might’ve changed things, but it’s probably the reason the team was open to moving him.
They likely didn’t see him as a $200 million player and didn't feel they'd be ready to compete for a championship anytime soon, even if they signed a big-name free agent this summer. Not to mention how expensive that team would be if they signed Keldon Johnson to the same contract extension.
As a result, trading Murray and doubling down on building through the draft made the most sense, especially with the Spurs' four most recent first-round selections all still being teenagers. Murray is almost 26 years old, and those players are several years away from coming into their own, so their timelines don't sync up.
Then there's the 2023 NBA Draft, which is highly regarded and likely another reason the Spurs chose to deal Murray. After all, trading away the best player on a 34-win team gives the Spurs much better odds of selecting first overall.
All of that justifies the Spurs' decision to move Murray, but it's possible they jumped the gun a bit. Had the Spurs held off even a few days, the trade market might've looked a lot different, post-Gobert trade, with teams willing to give up more for a star.
Overall, the Spurs appear to have made the right call in trading Murray, but they didn’t get as many assets as they possibly could've.