Fool's gold: Why Murray trade isn't solution for Warriors' issues

Fool's gold: Why Murray trade isn't solution for Warriors' issues originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

With Stephen Curry 36 years old and Klay Thompson a 34-year-old unrestricted free agent, the offseason is bringing a flurry of discussion about the future of the Warriors’ backcourt. With no simple avenues to getting younger and more athletic, the streets are overrun with speculation.

One anonymous Western Conference executive reportedly joined in the fun, identifying Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray as the solution.

Sounds good. On the surface.

Murray is 27. He’s 6-foot-5, with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, with the skill and talent to make many more NBA All-Star Game appearances. He would have to come via trade because he has a four-year, $110 million contract, with a player option in the final season, that runs through 2028.'s veteran NBA reporter Sean Deveney reports that the executive tagged Murray as an attractive next-generation Warrior.

“Of all the guys they might be able to trade for,” the executive said to Deveney, “he is probably realistic because he does not make a ton of money. And they could add him, put him in Chris Paul’s spot, give up two first-round picks and now you’ve gotten some defense in there, you’ve got another scorer in there, you have a guy who make some sense.

“He’s 6-foot-5, he can guard three spots, he is an OK shooter, and he won’t break your bank.”

Though most of this description is fitting, within it is a myth the Warriors can’t afford to overlook. Murray’s defense has declined in successive seasons.

The Hawks finished with a 118.4 defensive rating, ranking 27th in the NBA. Only three teams – the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz – were worse. Atlanta, with a respectable 12th-place rating on offense, finished with a 36-46 record. Much of the defensive blame can be laid at the feet of a starting backcourt featuring noted non-defender Trae Young and Murray.

Young’s defense last season rated higher than that of Murray, whose 119.5 rating put him in a virtual tie with former Warrior Jordan Poole, whose inadequate defense was sore point in Golden State and a factor him being traded to the Washington Wizards last summer.

Among NBA rotation players logging at least 70 games, only Washington’s Kyle Kuzma and Utah’s Collin Sexton posted defensive ratings inferior to those put up by Murray.

The ideal addition to join Curry now is someone who can provide the kind of defense Thompson brought in his physical prime. The Curry-Thompson backcourt, conceivably the best in NBA history, worked splendidly because they were perfectly matched.

Thompson’s on-ball defense allowed Curry enough latitude to sag off his assignment, play the passing lanes and, moreover, conserve his energy for offense.

Klay always drew the toughest point-of-attack tasks, assigned to the likes of James Harden, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. No doubt Thompson’s two-way impact contributed to Curry winning multiple NBA MVP awards and scoring titles and evolving into a one-name superstar: Steph.

Thompson finished among the top-15 in All-Defensive team voting three consecutive seasons before finally getting recognized in 2019. He finished seventh in the voting, which landed him on the second team that included teammate Draymond Green and Jrue Holiday. Klay was a legitimate two-way star.

Devastating injuries to each leg – torn ACL in his left knee in June 2019, ruptured right Achilles’ tendon in November 2020 – have stolen much of Klay’s defensive ability. He’s stronger but slower, better suited to defending in the frontcourt.

Which brings us back to Murray. There was a brief time when he was a terrific defender. His lone brilliant defensive season was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2017-18, when he posted a spectacular 98.7 rating – tops among all guards – and was voted to the All-Defensive second team.

That Dejounte Murray, a two-way star, would be a godsend to the Warriors.

That Dejounte Murray hasn’t been seen in six years.

Murray has not been the same defender since tearing his right ACL in a preseason game in October 2018, less than five months after his only appearance on the All-Defensive team roster.

Murray would upgrade Golden State’s offense while being a liability to a defense that must improve. The thought of trading for him is more attractive than what the Warriors would see upon taking a deeper look.

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