Pelicans-Hawks trade grades: Is New Orleans a contender with Dejounte Murray?

The New Orleans Pelicans promised to make changes to keep up in the loaded Western Conference, so they’re hitting the trade machine before free agency begins Sunday. New Orleans is acquiring Dejounte Murray from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Dyson Daniels, Larry Nance Jr., E.J. Liddell and two first-round picks.

The Hawks are punting on the Murray-Trae Young backcourt after two disappointing seasons and are hoping to improve their future by getting back draft picks they gave up for Murray to either retool or rebuild. The Pelicans are trying to contend in the West after being swept out of the first round without Zion Williamson (hamstring). Let’s bust out the red ink and throw some grades on this trade.

Pelicans acquire Dejounte Murray

Considering what the Pelicans gave up for Murray, this is a no-brainer. While Murray’s defensive impact in Atlanta didn’t resemble that of his San Antonio days, his ability to get after it on that end is still there. The 27-year-old Murray is quick, athletic and really good at anticipating. He played on a horrendous defensive team and couldn’t fix it on his own. He’s joining a Pelicans team that thrived on defense this past season, finishing sixth in the league in defensive rating. Murray is more than capable of helping maintain that ranking. The key for New Orleans will be how Murray factors into its offense.

New Orleans had a good offense (ranked 11th last season), but it should have been a lot better. Some of the issue was Williamson or Brandon Ingram missing time — more so Williamson missing in the first round against the Thunder after a very healthy season for him (career-high 70 games). The Pelicans’ starting unit could score, but once the team started cycling bench players into the mix, its offense came up short too many times. The Pelicans also oddly struggled to generate offense in clutch situations, finishing with the fifth-worst offense in such situations last season. Murray, who tied Jalen Brunson for ninth in clutch-time scoring (106 points), can help solve a lot of that while also turning CJ McCollum back into more of a scorer than a lead guard.

The key to all this for New Orleans will be figuring out what’s next with Ingram. He’s entering the final year of his contract and wants a long-term, max deal the Pelicans seem a little hesitant to give. Maybe that’s due to their team not quite finding postseason success mostly due to health (the Pels haven’t advanced out of the first round since 2017-18). It could also be due to Ingram’s lack of availability, as he’s missed 103 games in five seasons with the Pelicans. Murray has three more years on his deal and gives New Orleans wiggle room in figuring out its next move with Ingram. If the Pelicans move him, they still have Murray, McCollum (32 years old), Trey Murphy III (24), Herb Jones (25) and Williamson (turns 24 on July 6). That’s plenty of offense, and there would be a big trade market for Ingram.

Grade: A-

Hawks acquire Dyson Daniels, Larry Nance Jr., E.J. Liddell, 2025 first-round pick (Lakers), 2027 first-round pick

I don’t really understand this trade for the Hawks. If the Lakers miss the playoffs in 2025 (which is made possible by the West’s depth, LeBron James’ age and Anthony Davis’ inconsistent availability most years), the Hawks have acquired a lottery pick in the loaded 2025 NBA Draft. It would probably be a late lottery pick unless the Lakers truly fall apart next season, but if the Lakers don’t miss the postseason, the pick will most likely fall somewhere in the No. 15-24 range. Teams are still capable of getting a good selection in that zone, but the odds lower considerably in most classes.

Daniels could end up being a very good defender. The problem is the third-year guard can’t shoot at all, doesn’t really look to score much and is not exactly Mark Jackson when it comes to moving the ball on offense. Daniels is still just 21 years old, so there’s plenty of time to develop, but he missed 43 games in his first two seasons. He also suffered a torn meniscus this past season, which cost him almost the entire months of February and March. Nance is a solid backup forward but doesn’t fulfill a real need for the Hawks unless they reshuffle frontcourt options in other deals. That’s a possibility. Liddell is entering his second season and played in eight games (23 minutes) as a rookie.

This deal feels like it’s simply about Atlanta getting more picks. ESPN reported the Hawks will also get the lesser of the Pelicans and Bucks picks in 2027. Both teams are expected to be good in those years. That would probably land the pick somewhere in the low-to-mid 20s, if not a little lower. The Hawks still owe two picks in 2025 and 2027 to the Spurs for acquiring Murray two years ago. Technically, they got those back, but they’re unlikely to be as high as what the Hawks are giving up. And they also owe the Spurs a pick swap in 2026.

If this was just about getting picks back for Murray and splitting up him and Young, I guess it’s mission accomplished? This trade just feels like the Hawks sold low on a talented guard, even if you’re not a big Murray fan. Maybe Daniels has an ascension strong enough to make this trade look a lot better down the road.

Grade: C+

(Top photo: Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)

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