Even though there are potential concerns about whether or not he can handle being on the Los Angeles Lakers, Dejounte Murray remains the most talked-about trade target for the purple and gold this season.
The Lakers truly are in the driver's seat when it comes to the Murray situation and if the Hawks are so desperate to deal him then he could be in Los Angeles as soon as next week. For a Lakers team that has struggled this season, Murray could provide a spark to right the ship and make another push toward the NBA Finals.
The one big hurdle that the Lakers are reportedly facing is Atlanta's insistence on adding a third team so it does not have to take back D'Angelo Russell in the deal. Jovan Buha of The Athletic and Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype explored this conundrum recently, with Boha naming a few teams that could make sense as a third trade partner.
Of the potential teams listed, the Charlotte Hornets were the most compelling. Charlotte just traded Terry Rozier and may be willing to take on "bad" contracts for draft capital in return. With that in mind, it becomes rather straightforward to build out a trade package that could get a deal done.
Breaking down this Lakers' 3-team Dejounte Murray trade:
If the Lakers have to include a third team in the trade then this is going to be the framework of the deal regardless who that third team ends up being. The third team has to take on Russell and another contract while the Hawks either have to get a big expiring or a piece they can build around in the future.
In this specific case, the Hawks would get salary relief in the form of Gordon Hayward. Hayward is on an expiring deal and by getting off of both Murray and De'Andre Hunter, the Hawks would be able to make a splash over the offseason. In the short term, Hayward can replace Hunter's minutes and might even be an improvement for the end of the season.
As far as the Hornets go, they essentially dump off their expiring contract instead of buying it out and get assets in return. Yes, the team has to potentially pay Russell next season and Hunter for another three seasons but that is not back-breaking for a team that isn't going to land any marquee free agents anyway.
For their troubles, the Hornets get a recent top-five pick they can try to mold in Hunter and also get a 2026 Lakers pick swap that could end up being very valuable. Taking the long-term approach and doing a deal like this is better than letting Hayward's contract expire so the team can overpay some mid-tier role player to come to Charlotte.
The Lakers have to fork over two first-round picks (an unprotected pick in 2029 and a pick swap in 2026) as well as two young players in Jalen Hood-Schifino and Max Christie. That may seem like a lot, but all things considered, that is a great price for what Murray could turn into in LA.
All that being said, the big variable in a potential trade like this is just how much Atlanta wants to move on from Murray. If the Hawks are dead set on trading Murray and there is no real market then the team may be forced to take a deal like this where they get one unprotected first and a recent first-round pick (Hood-Schifino).
But in the long run, it would probably be better for the Hawks to hold onto Murray and wait for an offseason deal that can bring more future value. Or the team can take the 2022 Utah Jazz approach and blow it up altogether.
With the salary-cap relief the team would get in this potential trade, the Hawks may say yes to something of a similar framework if the Murray situation is beyond repair.