Dejounte Murray is the best player that is currently available on the trade market. The Lakers are the team most in need of a talent upgrade.
On the surface, a trade between the two sides make sense. So why hasn’t it happened yet?
Here’s the framework of the most recent deal that has been discussed, per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, along with what both sides are likely thinking about the trade.
Why Lakers say yes and no: Dejounte Murray to Lakers for D’Angelo Russell, prospects package
Murray and Wesley Matthews for D’Angelo Russell, Jalen Hood-Schifino, a 2029 first-round pick, and four second round picks.
Why this trade
Russell is the most likely Laker to go out, due to his salary. He’s played better as of late, but Murray would surely be an upgrade.
Austin Reaves would also make sense from a matching salary perspective, and the Hawks would rather have him. But he’s become too good for the Lakers to part with.
Hood-Schifino, the No. 17 pick in the 2023 draft, is one of the few young assets with trade value that the Lakers have. They’re also throwing in all of the picks they have available in this proposal to make it as tempting as possible for the Hawks.
MORE: Lakers among most interesting trade deadline teams
Why the Lakers say yes
The Lakers desperately need to improve their offense, which is ranked 20th in the league.
Murray is averaging 21.4 points per game for the Hawks. He’s a good shot creator and pick-and-roll operator who has been excellent throughout his career from the midrange. A newer development is his 3-point shot — he’s connecting on 37 percent of those looks, which could certainly bolster a Laker offense ranked 28th in made 3’s. He could take some of the strain off LeBron James while also being able to play off the ball.
Murray is also a much better defender than Russell. While he isn’t quite at his All-Defensive team level of 2018, he can hold his own in a matchup. Russell, on the other hand, has been targeted so thoroughly in playoff series that he hasn’t been able to stay on the floor.
Murray is also on a great deal going forward. He will start a four year, $114 million extension next season starting at $24.8 million per year. For a former All-Star entering his prime years, that is a bargain.
Why the Lakers say no
Even with Murray on this team, is this enough to get them deeper than their Western Conference Finals run of last season? The team is barely above .500, and this move mortgages their future even more.
If the Lakers do decide to play the year out without making a deal like this, then they’re not winning a championship. But they will have three first-round picks to trade after the draft, and they can target a better player than Murray if one becomes available.
Russell has also been on fire lately, averaging 23.6 points per game since Jan. 11. Maybe they ride this out and see if he can keep that pace up.
MORE: Ranking best players available at the trade deadline
Would the Hawks even sign off on this?
It hasn’t even been two full seasons since the Hawks traded three first-round picks and a pick swap for Murray. Getting such a low return back for him at this point would be a very tough pill to swallow. But they are looking to move him, and this may be the best offer out there.
Murray and Trae Young haven’t worked as well together as Atlanta had hoped. The Hawks have been playing better lately, yet still find themselves in 10th place in the East. They need to retool and try to form a better team around their All-Star guard.
MORE: Trae Young named All-Star Game injury replacement
Getting Russell back also complicates matters. He doesn’t make a ton of sense next to Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic — his defense would be too problematic. The Hawks would likely have to find a third team to take him on.
Hood-Schifino has barely played for the Lakers this season. The case for him is that he has great size at the guard position and could potentially be a nice two-way player. If he hits, he would look great next to Young.
Even though this is all that the Lakers can realistically offer without throwing Reaves in the deal, this feels like a situation where the Hawks say no. They have never been one to pull a quick trigger. John Collins is a great example — after perpetually being on the trade block, the team had to essentially give him away to the Jazz.
Unless they are particularly high on Hood-Schifino or can find a third team for Russell, Atlanta probably looks for better offers in the summer.
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