Bradley’s Buzz: A winning streak prompts a Hawks-like dilemma

 Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) gets off a shot over Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) to tie the game at 123 - 123 and send it to overtime against the Golden State Warriors in an NBA basketball game at State Farm Arena, Saturday, February 3, 2024, in Atlanta. Atlanta Hawks won 141-134 in overtime. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) gets off a shot over Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) to tie the game at 123 - 123 and send it to overtime against the Golden State Warriors in an NBA basketball game at State Farm Arena, Saturday, February 3, 2024, in Atlanta. Atlanta Hawks won 141-134 in overtime. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Hawks picked the best possible time for a winning streak. Unless it’s the worst possible time.

Thursday marks the NBA’s trade deadline. Given that their season hadn’t gone well, it was believed the Hawks hoped to offload personnel/contracts. Their season just changed. They’ve won their past four games, pulling them within hailing distance of .500.

They’re still 10th in the 15-team East, still in play-in territory. The past three victories came against brand-name opponents, though the Lakers and Warriors are ordinary by their standards. Also: Tonight’s game with the Clippers, who are hotter than hot, is the last of six consecutive home dates. It could be that the Hawks have fattened up on weary travelers. Or …

It could be that they’ve figured some things out, though the defensive aspect of the sport still appears beyond them. The homestand began with Luka Doncic scoring 73 points. Eight days later, Stephen Curry managed 62. Only Washington is yielding more points per game than the Hawks, and the Wizards are 9-40. That said …

Over these 10 days, the Hawks have looked like the competitive team we expected this to be. They are not, we say again, untalented. They’ve had injuries – Jalen Johnson was out; De’Andre Hunter is out; Clint Capela will be out – but every team does. (They’ll face the 76ers, again without Joel Embiid, on Friday.)

The Hawks were a .500 team last season, which saw them change management. Quin Snyder replaced Nate McMillan as coach. Snyder’s NBA winning percentage is .572; McMillan’s is .534. An upgrade, right? Um, no. Or at least not yet.

Over 59 games last season, the Hawks were 29-30 under McMillan. Counting the play-in and playoffs, they’re 34-42 under Snyder. They’d gone from why-aren’t-they-better to who-even-cares? They haven’t been above .500 since November. The Luka loss dropped them nine games below break-even, their lowest point since the end of the 2019-20 season.

More than just not working, what the Hawks were doing had so not-worked that there seemed no recourse but to tear it up and start again. Now they’ve won four in a row. Now they’re wondering, “Is this for real?” If it is, there’s no percentage in trading Dejounte Murray. If it’s not … well, there’s the issue.

The Hawks mortgaged much of their future – three Round 1 picks plus a pick swap – to pair Murray with Trae Young. They’re 63-68 with both on the roster. They were 84-70 over the two seasons pre-Murray. The deal that was supposed to make them better made them worse, or so it would appear.

Two Sundays ago, Murray missed his first game of the season with was labeled a hamstring issue. NBA cognoscenti believed he was being held out because a trade – maybe with the Lakers – was imminent. The Hawks beat Toronto that night. Murray returned two days later – against the Lakers – and has scored 24, 22 and 19 points. His jumper over Klay Thompson sent the Golden State game to OT.

And now what? Are four wins enough to force a rethink? Wouldn’t it be just like the Hawks for the front office to trade nobody and then see the team lose seven of nine? (Yes, it would.) Still, having gone this far with these players, another few months of togetherness couldn’t do much harm. (Well, could it?)

In the grand scheme, nothing that happens in an NBA regular season means much. But the Hawks as constituted have waited so long for something to click that it would be foolish to ignore what’s happening. Besides, the midseason market was never apt to yield a windfall. No team of consequence needs Murray that badly.

If this run is revealed as a false spring, there’ll be ample time to trade Murray – and Capela, and maybe Hunter – over the summer. If this is indeed an awakening, you’d hate to hit the snooze button just because it’s deadline week. The Hawks don’t need to become buyers, but they shouldn’t start selling just yet.

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