Dejounte Murray emerging as perhaps the most likely All-Star-caliber talent to be moved

Less than one month from the NBA’s annual trade deadline, there remain few marquee players’ names involved in active discussions between front offices. Yes, credit the play-in tournament and a majority of the league’s teams still fancying themselves as playoff threats. But also consider the NBA’s already seen three All-Star guards change locations this season. Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday and James Harden were all dealt before November even got going. Those deals have all benefited contenders in Milwaukee, Boston and Los Angeles, respectively, while emptying much of the powder the Bucks, Celtics and Clippers each held for this particular 2024 title race. Then New York’s New Year’s acquisition of OG Anunoby from Toronto swept another big name off the board.

Now consider the possibility two-time All-Star Zach LaVine, whom Chicago has explored moving since the summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and the Raptors’ other premium free-agent-to-be, All-Star forward Pascal Siakam, could both remain with their incumbent franchises past the Feb. 8 buzzer. Hawks combo guard Dejounte Murray may well represent the next-best player who’s actually moved during these final theatrics of the NBA’s transaction period.

There’s still plenty of doubt among league personnel the Bulls will find an amenable trade partner for LaVine. A team that is both willing to assume the four years and roughly $180 million left on LaVine’s contract and furnish Chicago with preferred pieces who can help the 9th-seeded Bulls keep pace in the Eastern Conference postseason picture has been hard to come by. The franchise that may harbor the most interest in LaVine, the Los Angeles Lakers, could also take themselves out of the running by trading for another difference-maker such as Murray.

Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) goes up to shoot as Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero, second from left, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Guard Dejounte Murray could be in line for a change of scenery. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

With Siakam, several teams continue to value Toronto’s lanky playmaker. Sacramento, Indiana, Detroit and Dallas mark four suitors NBA executives keep listing as active buyers that have explored avenues to land Siakam. But for any interested party, like when Murray’s Hawks pursued Siakam this past summer, or even the struggling Golden State Warriors, who’ve discussed Siakam internally, sources said, any front office acquiring Siakam has to significantly weigh the clear messaging from Siakam’s side of this equation. He holds a direct path to unrestricted free agency this summer, and Siakam can simply walk to the highest bidder on the open market just as his former teammate Fred VanVleet did for Houston in June. Siakam’s group, according to league sources, does feel confident similar top-dollar offers will be available as the 29-year-old has rounded into All-Star form within a Toronto offense that’s featuring Scottie Barnes. Siakam doesn’t appear to have any interest in the two-year extension he could sign after being dealt this season compared to the maximum, long-term contract he plans to command as a free agent, sources said.

A trade can certainly be reached over the coming weeks. But for all those complications, rival executives are prepared for the possibility that Siakam could remain in Toronto, where the Raptors would have to consider extending him. The parameters surrounding a Siakam trade aren’t going to change. Why should any team risk sending out valuable rotation players and draft capital for a veteran who could simply net out as a half-season rental? And why should a team projected to have cap space, that believes it can be the lucky bidder to land Siakam come June 30, sacrifice anything similar? Both Indiana and Detroit will have serious room to play with this summer. So will Philadelphia, with Siakam’s former Raptors head coach, Nick Nurse, manning the bench, and that has league personnel pinning the Sixers as another potential free-agency bogeyman to scare off Siakam trade-deadline bids.

That leaves us with Murray, a 27-year-old, 6-foot-5 combo guard posting career numbers, before a four-year, $114 million extension kicks in for the 2024-25 campaign. His defensive reputation may have proven overstated since coming out of San Antonio, but Murray is still valued as a true plus on that end of the floor. Combine all of his production with the looming new ramifications of a harsher second luxury-tax apron, and Murray’s longterm number is considered relatively modest for his talents.

That’s left Atlanta in a good transaction position as the Hawks have floundered outside of the play-in picture for much of this first full season under head coach Quin Snyder. This roster hasn’t brought the juice Atlanta anticipated, particularly the Murray-Trae Young partnership the Hawks splurged to create two summers ago. But Atlanta, upon further review, still has the goal of moving Murray — and possibly moving other veterans like Clint Capela or De’Andre Hunter — to reshuffle its deck for a postseason hunt this spring, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Murray has generated a substantial market during preliminary conversations around the league. The Hawks have been considered one of the more aggressive front offices this season, sources said, in terms of teams that have been willing to approach rival executives with actual trade concepts as opposed to general interest in specific players. And at this juncture, to varying degrees, the Lakers, Knicks, Sixers, Heat and Pistons are five suitors expected to engage Atlanta about acquiring Murray over the coming days and weeks before Feb 8:

  • Los Angeles has continued to tell teams it doesn’t want to part with Austin Reaves, sources said. There does seem to be a pathway for a Murray-to-Los Angeles deal if the Lakers would be willing to include Reaves, sources said, although that would require the Hawks to send back more value for Los Angeles’ liking. Around the league, D’Angelo Russell’s $17 million salary has not been viewed as a valuable trade chip for the Lakers to bolster their roster behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

  • New York is looking at various avenues to upgrade its point guard depth behind Jalen Brunson, sources said, while the Knicks also continue to evaluate center options because of Mitchell Robinson’s ankle surgery. Although with Murray in favor of a fresh start, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, it seems questionable that adding the former All-Star to pair with another ball-dominant lead guard like Brunson would have much different results than Murray’s partnership with Young. Of note: When Atlanta and New York discussed the 2022 trade that brought Cam Reddish to the Knicks, the Hawks valued Quentin Grimes during those talks, sources said.

  • Philadelphia is not in any rush to add a piece or burn any of the Sixers’ newfound draft capital by way of the Harden trade, sources said. Philly has been conducting due diligence on various point guards available for the trade market — although Tyus Jones doesn’t seem to be a target to keep in mind for the Sixers, sources said. If the Hawks don’t operate with urgency to find a deal, perhaps a trade could come to fruition for Murray closer to the deadline. That being said, there’s little expectation among league figures that the Sixers will pursue Siakam or LaVine during this trade window.

  • Miami has left rival teams with the impression that the reigning Eastern Conference champions are looking for ball-handling reinforcements. The Heat are another suitor to keep an eye on for Murray, although there hasn’t been anything substantive beyond initial talks between Atlanta and Miami at this point, sources said.

  • Detroit can and should have all kinds of options on its board while mired in the league’s cellar at just 3-34. While head coach Monty Williams has routinely shifted his lineups with the mind of figuring out what personnel maximizes franchise engine Cade Cunningham, landing Murray would mark an intriguing upside swing for a rebuilding organization that shared aspirations of competing for the play-in this season. The Pistons being another team monitoring Siakam indicates Detroit is evaluating bigger improvements to the league’s lowest team, even if smaller tweaks are more likely for the Pistons.

Brooklyn has been another potential Murray destination mentioned by multiple league personnel, as the Nets are seen as an ideal spot from Murray’s side of this dynamic, sources said. But Brooklyn and Atlanta haven’t shared significant dialogue to this point, sources said, and the Nets don’t appear to be actively pursuing Murray at this juncture.

The Bulls have also inquired about Murray, league sources told Yahoo Sports, as part of Chicago’s exploratory efforts to return All-Star talent for LaVine. Yet those talks never gained much traction with the Hawks, sources said. And while the Spurs continue to be mentioned by league personnel as a potential landing spot for Murray, San Antonio does not currently bill as a probable outcome for Atlanta’s trade approach either, sources said.