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Dejounte Murray being traded to Hawks in blockbuster deal that prioritizes Spurs' future

The homegrown two-way All Star will be shipped to Atlanta in exchange for Danilo Gallinari, three first-round picks and a pick swap, according to multiple reports.

SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs are trading away their homegrown All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray in exchange for Danilo Gallinari, three first-round picks and a future pick swap from the Atlanta Hawks. Spurs center Jock Landale also was included in the trade, which was reported by multiple media sources Wednesday and confirmed by the team Thursday.

The 25-year-old Murray is a two-way star who blossomed into a nightly triple-double threat last season as the top option for a rebuilding Spurs team, averaging 21 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds and 2 steals in his first All-Star season. With this move, San Antonio is selling high on his success and doubling down on the rebuild.

Landale played his rookie year in San Antonio last season, averaging 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 10.9 minutes in 54 games.

The Spurs went 34-48 last season, scraping into the play-in game, where they fell to the Pelicans. The roster is now built around recent draft picks like Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Josh Primo. This year, the Spurs made three selections in the first round: Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley.

San Antonio will get Charlotte's 2023 first-round pick, plus first-rounders from Atlanta in 2025 and 2027, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Spurs will also have the right to swap picks with the Hawks in 2026 if Atlanta's is better. 

The Hornets' pick is top-16 protected, meaning if they miss the playoffs the Spurs don't get it yet. It is top-14 protected in 2024. If the Hornets miss the playoffs in 2023 and finish in the bottom 14 in 2024, the pick becomes a second rounder in 2026 and 2027.

It's safe to say that San Antonio has shifted their timeline for competing for a title back a few years. As the team prioritizes future development over immediate wins, Jakob Poeltl may be the next on the move.

Murray is a leader in the locker room and on the court and has endeared himself to this city since he was drafted in 2016. He made his mark on defense, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to make an All Defense team in his second season.

He learned from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Very early on, he showed clear signs of leadership. 

Gregg Popovich coached him hard, gave him added responsibility as he earned it, and saw him grow into one of the top young point guards in the league. DJ has called Pop a father figure, and the two have spoken at length about their mutual admiration.

RELATED: 'He deserves it' | Spurs' Dejounte Murray looking forward to Popovich reaching NBA coaching record

Fans in the Alamo City love Dejounte, and he seems to genuinely love them back. This will be hard for those who bleed Silver and Black, not only because it means saying goodbye to a player and person like Murray, but also because of what it means for the team's immediate future.

Many will question why San Antonio would trade their best player and team leader in a move that won't make them more competitive next season, and that's more than fair. The organization's logic likely comes down to a few factors.

Murray is under contract for two more seasons before he will become an unrestricted free agent. If the Spurs didn't envision re-signing him for a max deal a little bit down the road, either because they didn't want to or because they didn't think they'd be able to, it would make sense for GM Brian Wright to get as much as possible in return.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported that Murray wasn't unhappy in San Antonio, but knew that he would have been worth more than the limited extension he could have signed with the Spurs this summer.

"He and his agent, Rich Paul, made it known that he was not going to extend his contract with the Spurs this summer," Windhorst said on The Hoop Collective podcast. "And that wasn't really necessarily about the Spurs. His contract is about $16 million on average. When you extend your contract, you're limited into how much of a raise you can get. And it would've been probably below his market value as a 25-year-old All-Star. But he pretty much told them—he's like, 'I'm probably not going to extend next summer either.'"

San Antonio had a multitude of options this summer, and some hoped that they would use it to build a more competitive team for next season. This move is in the opposite direction, which is a clear indication that the team believes their window for getting back to championship contention will not be for a few years, no matter how hard they try to push it open right now.

The Spurs finished with the ninth-worst record in the league last year, and many would say that's a worse position to be in than closer to the bottom, where your sorrow is soothed with a better chance at a top pick. In the middle, you get an OK draft pick and no shot at bringing home the hardware.

San Antonio hasn't made the playoffs or won more than 34 games in the past three seasons, and they haven't won a playoff series since Kawhi Leonard went down in the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors in the 2016-17 campaign.

The league has done what it can to limit tanking, but teams nearest the bottom know that it's better for their long-term future if they lean into their inexperienced youth, cringe through some rough basketball and hope for an eventual savior (or perhaps multiple ones) in the draft.

Next year the top prize will be Victor Wembanyama out of France, who looks to be a freakish total package at 7'3".

RELATED: Projected top pick in 2023 NBA Draft, Wembanyama, reportedly exiting Tony Parker's team, ASVEL

The Sixers' process has been emulated in different ways by the Rockets, Thunder, Magic and Pistons, who all landed top-five picks this year. Still, you have to hit those draft picks, or you risk becoming the Kings.

A Popovich-coached team surely won't be doing any losing on purpose, but with a vast majority of the roster now under 23 years old and a player of Murray's caliber and stature out the door, the Spurs will likely struggle to win games.

Perhaps they felt that if they went all in on right now, at best they'd wind up a few spots higher than they did this season. The West is stacked and getting better, and a win-now move would have brought the Spurs closer to the middle, but not near enough to the top. That would maybe set up a first-round playoff series with no realistic expectations beyond that. That sets up another OK draft pick, and so on. 

This move is an extreme departure from that path, and however you feel about it, you can't say the Spurs haven't chosen a direction anymore.

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