The Dejounte Murray trade may have been a watershed moment in Travis Schlenk's tenure as the Atlanta Hawks' president of basketball operations.
The Athletic's Sam Amick reported Friday that Nick Ressler, the son of team governor Tony Ressler, has become a more influential figure within the organization. Ressler lobbied for the Murray trade in opposition to Schlenk's view, which was "the beginning of the end" for the latter, per Amick:
"This reality that key Hawks figures were feeling undermined by Nick Ressler's influence became a growing issue internally in recent months – specifically in relation to Trae Young — and had everything to do with Tony Ressler's choice to overhaul the staff. The Dejounte Murray trade with San Antonio was the beginning of the end, as sources say it went down despite Schlenk expressing his concerns about the price being paid (three first-rounders, a first-round pick swap and Danilo Gallinari) and with Nick Ressler known to be a driving force behind the deal. League sources say [Landry] Fields and several other team officials were in favor of the deal as well."
The Milwaukee Bucks' trade for Jrue Holiday ahead of the 2020-21 season is a prime example of how leveraging multiple first-round picks for a proven talent can be worth it, even if you aren't getting a top-10 star. Milwaukee won a title in Holiday's first year, thus justifying the significant outlay.
When the Hawks acquired Murray last summer, though, they weren't one piece away from the NBA Finals. They won 43 games in 2021-22 and were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Atlanta's performance this year shows why sending three first-round picks to the San Antonio Spurs for Murray was a possible misstep.
The 2022 All-Star is playing well. He's averaging 20.1 points, 6.1 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting 34.0 percent from beyond the arc. His contributions aren't moving the needle much, however, with the team ninth in the Eastern Conference at 19-22.
It's too early to call the Murray trade a flop, but the transaction isn't having its intended effect. Amick's reporting on the process of the deal will only generate more concern.
Undermining Schlenk on a trade of this magnitude is bad enough. That the team governor's son was one of the people who did the undermining reflects even worse on the Hawks.
The timing of Schlenk's stepping down as president of basketball operations in December wasn't ideal because the Hawks had to promote Landry Fields to president six months after he took over as general manager. Fields was ascending the front-office ranks, but the Hawks probably didn't expect him to rise this quickly.
Not only is Atlanta leaning on an inexperienced hand to guide the franchise through a difficult time, but fans also are left to wonder how much basketball-related decisions are being directed by a member of the team governor's family. That could be a recipe for disaster.