Why huge Donovan Mitchell trade is double-edged sword for Spurs

Donovan Mitchell, Keldon Johnson
Donovan Mitchell, Keldon Johnson / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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The Spurs’ future draft capital may have gotten much more valuable

If you’re looking purely at the 2023 NBA Draft on its own, then the fact that the Spurs will now have more competition near the top of the draft board may sound like the worst possible outcome in the midst of a rebuild. If you’re asking me, though, the ripple effects caused by the Donovan Mitchell trade could cause much more good than bad. 

In the Dejounte Murray trade, the Atlanta Hawks sent a 2023 protected 1st round pick from the Charlotte Hornets, two unprotected 1st round picks of their own (in 2025 and 2027), and a pick swap in 2026. Many Spurs fans initially believed that those unprotected picks in particular would only bring a mediocre return for the team because they would land outside of the lottery, if not toward the very end of the 1st round of the draft.  

With the Cavaliers now solidifying themselves as a contending team, though, the Atlanta Hawks’ future just became far less certain. While trading for Dejounte Murray was clearly a win-now move, in the next several years, the team will still have to compete against a Brooklyn Nets team that managed to retain Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (for now), a championship-caliber Milwaukee Bucks team, the most recent Eastern Conference-winning Boston Celtics, the always-competitive Miami Heat, a revamped Philadelphia 76ers team, a suddenly scary-looking Cleveland Cavaliers team, and more.  

In short, the Hawks’ future picks could be quite a bit higher than the team was anticipating when they first traded them away without adding any protections. Not only will the team face a lot of competition in the Eastern Conference, but there are no guarantees that the organization is able to keep the roster constructed as it currently is, particularly when free agency comes knocking for Dejounte Murray. Things could quickly go south in Atlanta in the coming years if they aren’t quite able to make it over the hump.