Over the course of the last month or so, the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks have been involved in an ongoing flirtationship centered around Dejounte Murray. The Lakers' level of interest in acquiring Murray has not wavered since the start of the affair, but the Hawks have been hesitant to make anything official as they continue to explore their options.
Atlanta's head coach Quin Snyder has even gone on record in expressing his desire to keep Dejounte in the Big Peach. Nonetheless, the two teams remain stuck in an extended staring contest as each side tries to outlast the other before blinking (AKA settling).
The prolonged sticking point that has held up any formal swaps from coming to fruition has been Atlanta's disinclination towards the idea of taking back D'Angelo Russell from the Lakers. Russell may not be among the top point guards in the NBA, but there is no denying his natural skill. Regardless, he would be a shaky fit next to Trae Young in the Hawks's backcourt. Furthermore, it does not seem like Atlanta's fanbase is too fond of the idea of obtaining the southpaw's services:
And while Atlanta's disinterest in D'Lo may be understandable from a fit perspective, it is not as if Dejounte Murray is on another level than Russell in terms of talent. Regardless of what anyone says, the fact of the matter is that D'Angelo Russell has been a truly terrific support piece next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He obviously has a tendency to go cold (10.2 PPG on shooting splits of 41% 3/32.7% 3/72.7% FT in December), but when he is hot like he has been lately (22.7 PPG on shooting splits of 48.8% FG/45.9% 3/84.2 FT in January) there is almost no stopping him offensively.
While his offensive outbursts are a lethal weapon in Los Angeles, it is typically his defensive shortcomings which trigger complaints from Laker fans. And when those previously noted big offensive evenings are sporadic, it is his defensive struggles that shine brightest.
Murray may or may not be as explosive offensively, but he would definitely serve as an upgrade to Russell on the less glamorous end of the floor. The 27-year-old's size (6'5", 180 pounds), elastic wingspan (6'10"), and opportunistic instincts (career 1.4 SPG) make him a dangerous predator defensively.
Would Dejounte Murray actually make the Lakers better, though?
With a 26-25 record, Rob Pelinka is without a doubt feeling the pressure to make something happen. And with the results that transpired following his roster renovation at last season's deadline, the argument could be made that a major change/some major changes could be just what the doctor ordered in LA's quest towards righting the ship.
In order to shift the team's current direction, Russell is almost assuredly going to be the odd man out. The front office already set a precursor to that claim when D'Angelo's no-trade clause was waived from his new contract to stay with the Lakers this offseason. Now that we are at the point where we are preparing to cross the bridge, we cannot help in begging the question regarding if Murray would actually elevate this team to new heights.
There is no crystal ball to spill the beans on exactly how that would play out, and we are not psychics in the slightest. One thing that is for sure, though, is that whichever route Pelinka takes on this path will result in a highly talented perimeter threat calling Los Angeles home. Perhaps the team can turn things around with Russell and make another late-season surge, or perhaps they could skyrocket to a new dimension after obtaining Murray from Atlanta.
So, would the Lakers actually be better after acquiring Dejounte Murray as opposed to keeping D'Angelo Russell? Only time will reveal the answer to that question, but we are anxious to discover the truth.