As the NBA’s Feb. 8 trade deadline fast approaches, the rumor mill is going to kick into high gear. The Philadelphia 76ers have already been mentioned in a variety of trade rumors. The latest one is centered around Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray.
According to a report last Friday from Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report, the Sixers and Los Angeles Lakers were among the teams to “check on the availability” of Murray. He later said Murray was not the Sixers’ top trade target but rather a “player of interest.” Regardless of which team ultimately trades for Murray, Haynes said he believes Murray will “likely be traded by the deadline.”
Murray is an intriguing trade target for the Sixers. The 27-year-old guard impacts the game in multiple areas, although there are some reasons for possible concern underneath the surface.
His best season came in 2021-22 with the San Antonio Spurs when he averaged 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Since then, he was traded to Atlanta and paired with two-time All-Star Trae Young. That pairing failed to produce, leading to Murray reportedly becoming available on the trade market.
Murray earlier in his career was an elite perimeter defender. He finished inside the top-12 in steals per game for three consecutive seasons, beginning with the 2019-20 campaign. However, his defensive numbers have declined since being traded to Atlanta. While he is still averaging 1.5 steals per game, his defensive rating has skyrocketed to as high as 119.8 this season. Playing next to Young, one of the worst defensive guards in the league, is certainly making things more difficult for Murray on that end of the floor.
One of the areas Murray has particularly struggled at defensively is in isolation. This negative trend began in his final year in San Antonio, where he allowed 1.04 points per play (29th percentile) defending in isolation. His numbers in this category were even worse in his first year with the Hawks, giving up 1.17 points per play (11th percentile). However, his transition defense has rebounded somewhat this season, giving up 0.87 points per play (65th percentile).
Murray is also a mixed bag offensively. His role was forced to change after being traded to the Hawks. He was a ball-dominant player who did a lot of his scoring in the mid-range while in San Antonio. Since going to Atlanta, he transitioned to an off-ball role playing next to Young. As a result, he evolved his game to include more outside shooting. He is currently in the midst of a renaissance year from deep. Through 35 games, Murray is shooting 38.4% from 3-point range on a career-high 6.0 attempts per game. This is a major improvement from 33.2% he shot from deep over the previous three seasons.
Outside of his play on the floor, Murray’s contract is potentially attractive to the Sixers. He is currently under contract for $17.7 million this season, and he is already locked up for the foreseeable future. Murray signed a four-year, $114.1 million extension with the Hawks last offseason. The extension includes a player option for the 2027-28 season. Adding Murray as the third option at something below a max contract would give the Sixers a bit of added flexibility for other ancillary moves this offseason.
The biggest determining factor in the Sixers’ decision to pursue Murray will be his fit next to Tyrese Maxey. The fit next to Maxey is a questionable one. His improved 3-point shooting this season is a reason for optimism that the pairing could work. However, it is based on too small a sample size to fully trust he can maintain it. There are also questions about Murray’s ability to revive his elite perimeter defense from his days with the Spurs. While Murray has shown flashes of what it would take to be a good fit with Maxey, there are ultimately too many concerns to make it worth the gamble.
As Austin Krell of 97.3 ESPN reported on Friday, “sources did not entirely rule out the possibility, but characterized a Murray-to-Philadelphia deal as ‘unlikely.’ They specifically reasoned that the fit next to prized guard Tyrese Maxey would raise questions.”
If the Sixers are going to make a big move at the trade deadline, it needs to be for someone who will assuredly be a great fit. Murray, while being a talented player, does not meet that criteria.