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The Hawks, T-Wolves and Knicks made moves with clear ups and downs

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As the NBA community waits with bated breath to find out where Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Deandre Ayton and others will play next year, many of this summer’s biggest deals have already been finalized. Let’s look at the three most aggressive moves thus far, involving a trio of teams looking to make a leap in 2022-23.

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

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For all that capital, the Hawks got a player who fills the gaps on their roster well. Even after making improvements in recent seasons, Murray isn’t much of a shooter, but he is an excellent defender who can hold his own in almost any perimeter matchup and is one of the best turnover forcers in 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 prevent Trae Young from the toughest guard defensive matchup every night. And on offense, Murray will serve as a second point guard on the floor (and likely run only with Young off the floor), able to take advantage of Young’s brilliant passes (Murray’s 54.4 effective field goal percentage in series ranked at ranked 34th out of 151 players who shot at least 250 times last season, according to Second Spectrum) and allow Young to better build his shots by playing off the ball in half-court situations more often.

Last season, Trae had the ball in his hands more than any player in the league except Luka Dončić and James Harden. That’s backbreaking work, and it affected Young’s off-the-ball movement. Among 178 players leaguewide who ran at least 1 mile per game on offense, according to 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 top speed, it seems like a waste of a weapon that could have thrown opposing defenses into chaos. Murray will allow the Hawks access to that weapon more often, assuming Young commits to using it (which is no guarantee based on his history of not exactly being committed when he’s off the ball).

Murray is also set 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 depends on what Atlanta does next. Given the extensive draft capital the Hawks gave up to secure his services, it’s likely they’ll go to great lengths to re-sign Murray when he hits free agency after the 2023-24 season. That gives Atlanta two years to convince Murray to stay, and the team will probably have to give him a reason beyond his friendship with Young (with whom he shares the same agency). While they haven’t exhausted their entire closet of assets yet, the Hawks will need to nail down any moves they make with John Collins and/or Clint Capela, the Hawks’ last remaining high-level trade pieces who could help build around their new Young. – Murray duo.

A similar all-in push came from the minnesota timber wolveswho sent Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, rights to 22nd overall pick Walker Kessler, unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025 and 2027 Y a protected top-five pick in 2029 to the Utah Jazz for three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

Karl-Anthony Towns should mesh with 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 a considerable volume. He’s also an excellent post-up shooter and high-profile passer, while Gobert has been one of the most effective pick-and-roll diver in the NBA in recent seasons. The duo will give Anthony Edwards very different ball-blocking partners, allowing the budding star end to diversify his game even more than he did during his sophomore season. Meanwhile, the gap between Gobert and Towns won’t be much worse than it was with Vanderbilt.

Of course, this trade wasn’t about offense. It was all about defense, and Gobert has essentially been a top 10 defenseman his entire career: Utah ranked seventh, third, second, second, 13th, fourth and ninth in defensive efficiency in Gobert’s seven full seasons as a starting center of the team. , despite routinely employing mediocre perimeter defenders. So he’s a good bet that he’ll transform Minnesota’s defense right away. Gobert remains an elite rim protector, and is arguably the best in the NBA at executing the league’s most common pick-and-roll defensive tactic (drop coverage, where he topped the field in the minor number of points allowed per possession last season, according to Second Spectrum).

Minnesota allowed opponents to convert 66.4 percent of their shots in the restricted area last season, according to NBA Advanced Stats, which ranked ninth in the league. That almost certainly won’t happen again with Gobert in town, considering he has ranked no less than sixth in opponent field goal percentage when within 5 feet of the rim and shooter in the last 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 fare defending in space more often is an open question, as is how the Wolves will adapt to having a much tamer defensive system than they did a year ago, when they were among the most aggressive defenses in the league. NBA. Gobert should be able to cover up 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 wane. What happens when Gobert stops being a perennial favorite for Defensive Player of the Year and becomes simply an above-average defender? That day may come sooner than the Wolves think, and they’ll likely pay Gobert more than $40 million a season when it does.

Besides, in case you’re counting, Murray and Gobert’s deals included five unprotected first-round picks, a newly drafted first-round pick, a top-five protected pick and a first-round pick trade, all at change. for two players who were All-Stars but not All-NBA last season. Sheesh.

the New York Knicks They didn’t put up as much draft capital to land their man as the Hawks and Wolves did, but they did make a big push to free up salary-cap space to sign Jalen Brunson (four years, $104 million). In a series of trades around draft night, the Knicks essentially sent six future second-round picks to offload the contracts of Kemba Walker, Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, while also turning the No. 11 overall pick into the last month’s draft (Ousmane Dieng ) into three future protected first-round draft picks. All of that was done with Brunson in mind, along with adding Isaiah Hartenstein (two years, $16 million) and re-signing Mitchell Robinson (four years, $60 million).

Brunson is a excellent fit for what Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau likes in a point guard. He’s tough and aggressive, he lives in the paint and (this might be 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, according to 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 fruitful when the game resulted in a shot, fumble, or foul by Brunson or a teammate from a distance pass.

But there are concerns that Brunson’s production was a result of his role on the Dallas Mavericks: Second Spectrum classified 799 of Brunson’s 1,691 pick-and-rolls as “spread,” or coming from a five-out lineup. Dallas’ space on the floor with the shooters allowed Brunson freer access to the paint than he’s likely to have in New York, where Thibodeau almost always has two traditional big men on the floor, at least one of the which is not an offside factor. rim. The Knicks executed 2,396 extended pick-and-rolls last season, out of a total of 6,722. That’s a 35.6 percent rate, compared to Brunson’s 47.2 percent rate 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 Hartenstein on dribble transfers. Brunson, a southpaw, likes to operate from the left side of the floor, which could pose a problem for fellow southpaw Julius Randle (if he’s not traded), but he’s a good fit for RJ Barrett, who was among the league leaders. link on the right. he made 3-point corner attempts in each of the past two seasons and made 39.3 percent of those shots during that time. Keeping Barrett (also a southpaw) on the right side of the floor allows him to get to his left hand as a driver in second-side action, where he should thrive taking advantage of the opportunities Brunson creates.

New York likely still struggles offensively due to a general lack of space and Thibodeau’s maddeningly archaic philosophy, but the Knicks should, finally! — getting the point guard to play well enough to get a clear assessment of the young players Thibs deigns to put on the floor. Barring more moves, though, New York’s two signings could siphon some playing time (and touches) away from Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes. That would be unfortunate, considering the flashes each has shown to date.

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