Trae Young, Dejounte Murray duo shows its promise in Hawks’ win

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Lennon and McCartney. Batman and Robin. Snoopy and Woodstock. Starsky and Hutch. Trae and Dejounte?

The Hawks hope so. And excuse them if they feel a little intoxicated after the duo’s debut, in which the pair went together like tequila and lime.

Trae Young and Dejounte Murray combined for 43 points; that’s despite shooting 2-for-14 from three. They added 24 assists (the Hawks as a team aim for at least 25 assists a night). The All-Stars became the third pair of Hawks teammates to each produce 20-plus points and 10-plus assists in a game.

Sure, it was against the rebuilding Rockets, a team with the cohesion of any random grouping at your YMCA, but Wednesday’s 117-107 victory showed some proof of concept. Young and Murray will have their growing pains, but the Hawks are more dangerous with them – both sharing the court and staggered.

“We should’ve been better; we will be better,” Murray said, referencing Houston hanging around in the game. “As far as me and Trae, it’s about the Atlanta Hawks – not me and Trae. But we’re going to set the tone and go from there.”

Young and Murray opened the game together. Eventually, Murray got a breather as Young continued through the first quarter. When the second stanza began, Murray took over with Young resting. For the final 7:27 of the first half, they played simultaneously and harmonically (the second half followed a similar formula).

The two looked natural together at points. Young found Murray on the fast break for an easy make plus the foul at the 5:59 mark of the second quarter, one of Murray’s earliest moments energizing the State Farm Arena crowd. A couple minutes later, Murray intercepted a pass and flung to Young, who fired a deep three that put the Hawks up 51-42. Just before halftime, Young found Murray for a dunk.

Murray had a steal and score with just under seven minutes left to put the Hawks up five. About a minute later, he hit a three then found Onyeka Okongwu for a layup that helped ice the game. Murray also comfortably orchestrated the second unit when Young rested, a notable occurrence given the Hawks’ past struggles when Young was sidelined.

It wasn’t always pretty. But it’s hard not to come away from Wednesday feeling optimistic about this duo – even with them shooting 15-for-41. Murray promises experience will produce better results.

“Me and Trae, we weren’t too efficient,” Murray said. “We have to be better. We missed a lot of shots that we usually make. But as far as getting dudes the ball, I think we did a great job. My goal for me and Trae the whole year is to get dudes better. Make our teammates better and share the ball.”

How the Hawks got here: They recognized their roster was flawed. The serendipity of the 2021 playoff run was overridden by the disillusionment of the ensuing season. The Hawks kept the band together to a fault; sometimes a new bassist or saxophonist can keep things fresh.

When the Heat treated the Hawks as the Globetrotters treat the Generals, it opened eyes. The Hawks were never going to be true contenders with their style and personnel.

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Much went right in the playoffs the year before – the Knicks’ involvement and Ben Simmons forgetting how to play basketball among them – but the Heat were more indicative of what the Hawks were facing. Young was hounded, battered, bruised and flat humiliated at points. He needed his Robin. The team needed a different approach.

The Hawks acknowledged that, too. Their search for Mr. Right led to Murray, formerly the Spurs’ Batman, whom they obtained at a hefty price: three future first-round picks and a pick swap for 2026. It’s the type of deal that gets the bold executive an extension or walking papers. It could be a steal. Or a mess. But it showed the Hawks care about right now, prioritizing reward over risk in one of the most daring moves in franchise history.

The NBA isn’t a patient business. Another year or two of flailing when it matters, the Hawks risk Young’s eyes wandering to other cities. Murray, the team hopes, becomes a long-term associate of Young’s. If this bet works, and the Hawks ascend into legitimate contention, those were picks well spent.

Hawks 117, Rockets 107

Murray is only 26, two years older than Young. He’s another Spurs development success story, going from 3.4 points per game his rookie season to a career-finest 21.1 points per game last season, in which he earned his first All-Star nod. He stuffs the stat sheet with assists and rebounds, just as he did Wednesday.

Just as important, Murray provides defense to a team that ranked 26th in defensive efficiency a year ago. Murray can glue to the opposition’s top guard. He’ll pry some balls loose. He strengthens your toughness on that end. He’s everything the Hawks so desperately needed to complement Young, whose defensive shortcomings are well noted.

Murray had five steals and a block in his debut. His intensity – unable to be quantified in a box score – was evident. “He’s one of the guys we look to establish our defense,” coach Nate McMillan said.

Where the pairing truly intrigues is offensively. Young needs to sacrifice to make this work, which judging by his expressed interest in playing more off ball, he seems willing to do. As the Hawks checked themselves in the mirror, they knew Young’s do-it-all spectacles, however entertaining on an inconsequential January night versus Oklahoma City, wouldn’t surge them past the defensively focused East powers.

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Questions remain regarding how far a Young, Murray and John Collins trio can go. Certainly, the development of players like De’Andre Hunter and Okongwu are instrumental. There’s likely another tweak or two required before this team can seriously go head-to-head with the elites, but they’re much closer than they were a year ago.

Murray is a big reason why. The trade was unquestionably a risk. It doesn’t guarantee reward. But one game in, it’s off to a peachy start.

“I’m just happy to have (Murray) here,” Collins said. “He brings a lot to the squad. … Just having two high-level playmakers is elite for any ballclub. We have the guys around them to make it mesh well. We’ll continue to use them as they play, as high-level playmakers, and just do what we can to make everything work.”