October 3, 2022

While the NBA community eagerly waits to find out where Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Deandre Ayton and more will play next year, many of this summer’s biggest deals have already been closed. Let’s check out the three most aggressive moves to date, which involved a trio of teams looking to make a jump in 2022-23.

The Atlanta Hawks got the party started early, swinging a trade to the San Antonio Spurs for All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray the day before free agency opened. Atlanta paid a high price, not in players (they only fired Danilo Gallinari, who will be waived at the end of the trade), but rather in draft picks: the Hawks sent San Antonio a pick of first round in 2023 (which originally belonged to the Charlotte Hornets), as well as their own 2025 and 2027 first round picks and trade rights on their 2026 first round. They then sent Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings for Justin Holiday, Mo Harkless and a protected 2024 first-round pick. (He’s a Kings pick, so let’s assume he eventually becomes two second-rounders.)

For all that capital, the Hawks have a player who fills the gaps in their roster nicely. Even after making improvements over the past few seasons, Murray isn’t much of a shooter, but he’s a great defender who can hold his own in almost any perimeter matchup and is one of the best rotational players in the game. the NBA. Murray led the league in steals last season, making him a key addition to a Hawks defense that ranked 28th in opponent turnover rate.

Murray’s defense will spare Trae Young from the more difficult defensive game of the guard every night. And on offense, Murray will serve as a second point guard on the field (and likely run a solo point with Young off the field), able to both take advantage of Young’s brilliant passing (the effective field goal percentage of 54, 4 on drives ranked 34th among 151 players who drove to the rim at least 250 times last season, according to Second Spectrum) and allow Young to better arm his shot by playing the ball more often in half-half situations. ground.

Last season, Trae had the ball in his hands more than anyone in the league except Luka Dončić and James Harden. It’s grueling work, and it hurt Young’s off-ball movement. Of the 178 players in the league who ran at least 1 mile per game on offense, per Second Spectrum, Young ranked 150th in time spent moving fast (as opposed to slow or medium speed). Considering he ranked 21st among that same group of players in max speed, that seems like a waste of a weapon that could have thrown opposing defenses into chaos. Murray will allow the Hawks to access this weapon more often, assuming Young commits to using it (which isn’t a story-based guarantee of not being exactly committed when not). on the ball).

Murray is also expected to earn just $34.3 million over the next two seasons combined, giving him one of the most team-friendly contracts in the league. But the ultimate fate of this trade likely hinges on what Atlanta does next. Given the large draft capital the Hawks gave up to secure his services, they will likely do everything possible to re-sign Murray when he enters free agency after the 2023-24 season. That gives Atlanta two years to convince Murray to stay, and the team will likely have to give him a reason beyond his friendship with Young (whom he shares the same agency with). While they haven’t exhausted their entire closet just yet, the Hawks will need to pull off any moves they make with John Collins and/or Clint Capela, the Hawks’ latest high-level trade pieces that could help build around their new Young duo Murray.

A similar all-in push came from the Minnesota Wolveswho sent Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, the rights to No. 22 overall pick Walker Kessler, unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025 and 2027 and a 2029 top-five pick at the Utah Jazz for three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

Karl-Anthony Towns should match Gobert on offense – at least in the regular season. People can joke all they want about Towns declaring himself the greatest big-man shooter of all time, but the guy has a 53-40-83 shooting line for his career, on sheer volume. He’s also a great post scorer and top passer, while Gobert has been one of the most effective pick-and-roll dive men in the NBA in recent seasons. The duo will give Anthony Edwards very different partners on the ball screen, allowing the budding star wing to diversify his game even more than he did in his second season. Meanwhile, the spacing with Gobert next to Towns won’t be much worse than it was with Vanderbilt.

Of course, this trade was not about offense. It was all about defense, and Gobert has basically been a top-10 defense his entire career: Utah ranked seventh, third, second, second, 13th, fourth and ninth in defensive efficiency in all seven seasons. complete de Gobert as the team’s starting center. , despite regularly employing below-average perimeter defenders. It is therefore a safe bet that he will immediately transform the defense of Minnesota. Gobert remains an elite rim protector, and he’s arguably the best in the NBA at executing the league’s most common pick-and-roll defensive tactic (drop cover, where he walked the court with the fewer points allowed per possession last season, according to Second Spectre).

Minnesota allowed opponents to convert 66.4% of their shots in the restricted area last season, according to NBA Advanced Stats, which ranks ninth in the league. That certainly won’t happen again with Gobert in town, considering he ranked no worse than sixth in opposition field goal percentage while less than 5 feet from the rim and shooter over the past seven seasons. Towns ranked significantly lower on those same lists, a clear motivating factor in Minnesota’s decision to pair him with the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

How Towns will defend themselves more often in space is an open question – as is how Wolves will adapt to a much more docile defensive system than they did a year ago when they featured among the most aggressive defenses in the NBA. Gobert should be able to hide most weaknesses for at least the next two seasons, but it’s worth remembering that the Frenchman turned 30 this offseason, a benchmark after which NBA players tend to decline. What happens when Gobert goes from Permanent Defensive Player of the Year to simply Above Average Defenseman? That day may come sooner than Wolves think, and they’ll likely be paying Gobert more than $40 million a season when it does.

By the way, in case you’re counting, the Murray and Gobert deals included five unprotected first-round picks, one just-picked first-round pick, one protected top-five pick, and one exchange of first-round picks — all in trade for two players who were All-Stars but not All-NBA last season. Hush.

The New York Knicks didn’t give up nearly as much capital to land their man as the Hawks and Wolves did, but they did put in a lot of effort to free up space to sign Jalen Brunson (four-year-old, $104 million). In a series of deals around draft night, the Knicks essentially sent six future second-round picks to get rid of the contracts of Kemba Walker, Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, while turning the No. 11 pick overall in the last month’s draft (Ousmane Dieng) into three future protected winners. This was all done with Brunson in mind, to go with the addition of Isaiah Hartenstein (two years, $16 million) and the re-signing of Mitchell Robinson (four years, $60 million).

Brunson is a great fit for what Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau likes in a point guard. He’s tough and aggressive, he lives in the paint, and (perhaps the most important part, at least for Thibs) they’ve known each other for years. The Knicks ran the fourth-most pick and rolls per 100 possessions last season, per Second Spectrum, and Brunson is excellent in action: Among 56 players who ran at least 1,000 ball screens last season, Brunson was 11th most successful when the play resulted in a shot, turnover or foul shot by Brunson or a teammate to a pass.

But there are concerns that Brunson’s production is the result of his role in the Dallas Mavericks: Second Spectrum classified 799 of Brunson’s 1,691 picks and rolls as “spread”, or coming from a five-out lineup. Spacing the Dallas floor with the shooters allowed Brunson more free access to the paint than he’s likely to get in New York, where Thibodeau almost always has two traditional big men on the floor – including at least one is a total non-factor away from the rim. The Knicks ran 2,396 pick and rolls last season, out of a total of 6,722. That’s a 35.6 percent rate, compared to the 47.2 percent rate Brunson had in Dallas a year ago.

That said, Brunson should be able to form a fortuitous partnership with Robinson and Hartenstein on pick and rolls, and with Hartenstein on dribble transfers. Brunson, a southpaw, likes to operate on the left side of the floor, which could pose a problem for fellow southpaw Julius Randle (if not traded) but suits well for RJ Barrett, who was among the league leaders right-corner 3-point attempts in each of the past two seasons and have made 39.3% of those shots in that span. Keeping Barrett (also a southpaw) on the right side of the floor allows him access to his left hand as a driver on the second side action, where he should thrive taking advantage of the opportunities Brunson creates.

New York is still likely to struggle offensively due to a general lack of spacing and Thibodeau’s maddeningly archaic philosophy, but the Knicks should – finally! – play the point guard well enough to have a clear assessment of the young players that Thibs deigns to put on the floor. Unless more moves arrive, however, the two New York rookies could siphon playing time (and touches) away from Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes. That would be a shame, considering the flashes everyone has shown thus far.