The pros and cons of the Sixers trading for Dejounte Murray

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Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) scores against the Indiana Pacers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

As the NBA’s trade deadline rapidly approaches, the Philadelphia 76ers have been connected to a number of potential trade targets, including former All-Star Dejounte Murray.

Murray is on the trade block just two seasons after the Atlanta Hawks paid a steep price for his services. The Hawks sent the San Antonio Spurs three first-round picks and a pick swap in order to complete their big three of Trae Young, John Collins, and Murray.

A few seasons later, Collins is in Utah, and Murray is on the trade block connected to the Lakers, the Spurs, and even the Sixers. With the Sixers exceeding expectations this year, President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey may realize that his team could have a legitimate chance at a title this year if they forgo their plans of big-time free-agent spending. Yet, the question still remains: Could Dejounte Murray be the missing piece?

The pros of acquiring Murray

There is a lot to love about Murray. The former All-Star is averaging career highs in field goal percentage (46.7 percent), three-point percentage (38.6 percent), three-pointers attempted per game (6.1), and he is just under his previous career high in points per game (20.8). On top of that, Murray stands at 6’5″ and has a second-team All-Defense accolade to his name.

Atlanta Hawks’ Dejounte Murray, center, goes to the basket between Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, right, and Nicolas Batum during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

He is well known for his lockdown defense under Popovich in San Antonio. His defense has fallen since leaving San Antonio, but coming to work under Nick Nurse in Philadelphia could reawaken him to his previous level. Since leaving the Spurs, he and Young have played solid together, but it still hasn’t translated to winning basketball. With Young’s status as the Hawks’ cornerstone and Murray’s four-year contract that kicks in next season, the Hawks are opting to get themselves some long-term cap relief in order to build around Young.

While Murray has not had the success some predicated after leaving San Antonio, he is still an excellent player who just happens to be in a rough position with his 16-23 organization. Yet, Murray is still a 6’5″ combo guard who can defend, score, find the open man, rebound, and shoot. He could slot into the 76ers starting lineup extremely well, excelling as the third star after Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid.

Those types of players don’t come around on the trade block every day, and while his contract would signal a change from the cap space plan, the contract is relatively team-friendly. Murray is under contract until the 2027-2028 season, which is a player option worth 30.7 million dollars.

The cons of acquiring Murray

With every pro-con list, there comes a time when you have to look at the negatives. To start, Murray is a former All-Star who isn’t usually perceived as a needle mover. He came to an Atlanta team who thought they were in contention. They ended up as a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, getting bounced in the first round. While he was solid in that first round, he still didn’t fully elevate the Hawks in the way that Atlanta had hoped.

Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) drives past Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

That is not entirely on him, but he still doesn’t have the best track record in terms of elevating teams. Since 2019, when Murray became a full-time starter, he has never had a winning record. The best he’s done in that timeframe is a 41-41 squad last year with the Hawks. Again, this is not necessarily his fault, as his organizations and circumstances are partly to blame, but it is still concerning.

Beyond that, there isn’t anything to dislike about Murray as a player. However, there are other concerns around getting the guard. First, the Hawks seem to be asking for two first-round picks in any trade package. While the Sixers could pay that asking price, their newfound draft capital would be out of the window almost immediately.

With the Lakers entering the bidding war for Murray’s services, the Sixers would have to pay a premium for a guy who has yet to make a team considerably better. Beyond just the trade cost, the Sixers would almost certainly lose a lot of their depth, which has made them such an incredible team this year. Kelly Oubre, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, and Robert Covington have all been incredibly important to the Sixers.

Beyond just the trade assets the Sixers would need to give up, Murray’s contract could also prove to be a negative, just as it could prove to be a positive. With 3 to 4 more years on his contract, the Sixers would be forfeiting any chance at being a major player in free agency. This would be a massive risk for the Sixers to take now after focusing their entire organization on the free agency goal. Murray doesn’t have an immovable contract, but it would be a significant pivot for Philadelphia.

Should the Sixers trade for Dejounte Murray?

The Sixers are constantly looking for the best way to maximize their championship window around Embiid. Last offseason that meant waiting for free agency to sign another star alongside Embiid. Right now, with the trade deadline approaching fast, Maxey’s emergence could change that outlook. However, Dejounte Murray probably doesn’t make the Sixers a favorite to win the championship.

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) collects a pass as Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

With the depth Philadelphia currently has and the levels of basketball that the Sixers’ current stars are playing at, it wouldn’t surprise me if this year’s trade deadline passes without Murray joining the Sixers. That doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, but it makes more sense for Philadelphia to commit to their current team and their current vision for next year’s free agency.