Hawks GM explains decision not to deal at trade deadline

AP photo by John Bazemore / Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, shown during a Feb. 2 home game against the Phoenix Suns, was not dealt at the NBA trade deadline Thursday despite much speculation he could be moving on.
AP photo by John Bazemore / Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, shown during a Feb. 2 home game against the Phoenix Suns, was not dealt at the NBA trade deadline Thursday despite much speculation he could be moving on.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks, despite allowing the most points per game in the NBA and struggling to remain above the cutoff line for the play-in tournament, did not make a move before the league's trade deadline Thursday afternoon.

There was much speculation the Hawks would consider a trade involving shooting guard Dejounte Murray, who alongside Trae Young forms a high-scoring backcourt that has produced plenty of points but not a winning record. General manager Landry Fields, speaking a day after the deadline came and went, said no offer fit the team's long-term goals.

"I think we'll know when it's time to move on from from players," Fields said Friday. "And we'll know when it's time to bring in somebody new. But obviously right now that wasn't the time. This was not the time."

Fields assumed control of daily operations when team president Travis Schlenk stepped down on Dec. 21, 2022. About two months later, Quin Snyder was hired as coach to replace the fired Nate McMillan.

The Hawks finished the 2022-23 season at 41-41, eighth in the Eastern Conference, and lost to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs after escaping the play-in tournament. Atlanta entered Friday 10th in the East, which represents the final spot in the play-in tournament.

The Hawks have not won a playoff series since advancing to the conference title series in 2021. Some observers believe Murray could have brought Atlanta a package, including first-round picks to make major tweaks to the roster.

Fields stressed he wasn't willing to sacrifice long-term goals for a possible short-term benefit.

"With any sort of concept that came in, it's not just the short-term results or the short-term goals, I should say, that we're interested in," Fields said. "It's long term."

Murray, who agreed to a $120 million, four-year extension last July, remains part of the plan, at least through this season.

The Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans were among teams that reported interest in a deal involving the 6-foot-5, 185-pound Murray, who entered Friday averaging 21.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

Murray provided needed size and defense to take pressure off the high-scoring Young (6-1, 164). Atlanta's defense has remained a liability, though, with its average of 124 points allowed ranking last in the NBA this season.

Fields referred to "certain gains of the last few weeks" that provided encouragement to remain committed to the current roster.

The Hawks have only recently had forwards De'Andre Hunter and Jalen Johnson back on the floor together after each missed multiple weeks with injuries. Fields said "we've seen an uptick" from recent contributions by Johnson and fellow forwards Saddiq Bey and Onyeka Okongwu.

"So all things considered, yeah, we ultimately decided that we weren't going to do anything," Fields said. "Could we have done something? Absolutely. But that would have been short-term results that we didn't feel are going to benefit us for the long term."

Fields said the Hawks could take another look at trade options after the season and the NBA draft. The team has a $25.3 million trade exception that was created when forward John Collins was traded to the Utah Jazz last June. The Hawks have until July 8 to use that exemption.

Said Fields: "We do have some time for that, and it's an important tool, a helpful tool, as we go into the summer ... where we have these opportunities to externally change our team."