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Nick Van Exel is perfect for Trae Young, Dejounte Murray

Nick Van Exel is perfect for Trae Young, Dejounte Murray
Nick Van Exel will be a great coach for Dejounte Murray and Trae Young. (Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

ATLANTA, (BVM) – Nick Van Exel was hired by the Atlanta Hawks last summer and instantly got to work helping the Hawks’ star point guard, Trae Young. Now, Van Exel will get to impart his wisdom on another young star, Dejounte Murray. 

The Hawks sent Danilo Gallinari, three future first-round picks and a future first-round pick swap to the San Antonio Spurs for the first time all-star.  

The trade creates one of the most intriguing backcourts in the NBA ahead of the 2023 season. Young, who led the league in total points (2,155) and assists (737) this past season, paired with Murray, who led the league in steals (138) and steals per game (2.0) is a great combination of offense and defense. With these two talented guards, the Hawks should get right back to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. 

Van Exel will have his part to play in the new backcourt succeeding in Atlanta. The 13-year NBA point guard came to the Hawks with the goal of improving Young’s game. In fact, it was the whole reason Hawks head coach Nate McMillan hired Van Exel.

“He (McMillan) just wanted me to just hone in on the guards. Especially Trae,” Van Exel told FanNation last fall. “He also said, ‘help all these guys out.’ It’s not just about X’s and O’s and things like that because we have a young group.” 

McMillan knew first hand what Van Exel could do as a guard after playing him in the 1990s when Van Exel was with the Los Angeles Lakers and McMillan was with the Seattle Supersonics. Van Exel was also a flashy, offensiveoriented guard that could light up the court earning him the nickname “Nick the Quick” Van Exel. 

Over his career, Van Exel averaged 14.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists. He was one of the original pieces of the Lakers rebuild following their success in the 80s. Van Exel helped lead the Lakers back to the playoffs in 1995. In 1998, he made his first and only All-Star game but was traded after the 1998 season to the Denver Nuggets for Tony Battie and Tyronn Lue.

Van Exel would play for the Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs before retiring in 2006. According to celebritynetworth.com is currently worth $40 million, which makes sense considering his success at the point guard position.

Van Exel went into coaching a few years after retiring, first as an assistant coach with Texas Southern University before making the leap to the NBA. He was an assistant coach and even spent some time in the G League, back then it was the D League, with the Texas Legends. Van Exel was with the Dallas Mavericks when McMillan offered him the job in Atlanta. 

Based on Young’s numbers from last season, Van Exel has helped. He’ll also be able to relate to Murray at least a little bit since they both spent time in San Antonio under Greg Poppovich which will help to build the trust Van Exel believes is imperative in helping coach NBA players. 

“So you have to build trust with players,” Van Exel told FanNation. “You have to be genuine with players. You have to know what you’re talking about.”

Van Exel definitely knows what he is talking about. Film sessions are sure to be doctorate level courses in basketball and the Hawks will be all the better because of it. 

Even before his time in the NBA, Van Exel had an impressive basketball resume. In high school, he was the star guard for St. Joseph High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He played his first two years of college basketball at Trinity Valley Community College before signing to play for Bob Huggins at Cincinnati.

Nick Van Exel
Nick Van Exel was honored by Cincinnati in 2017 for his playing days. (Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

As a Bearcat, Van Exel helped Cincinnati make it to the Final Four in 1992 and the Elite Eight in 1993. He was a third-team All-America selection and was drafted in the second round of the 1993 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. 

The Hawks had a serious sophomore slump last season after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021. The addition of Dejounte Murray will help them get back. His defensive abilities along with De’Andre Hunter and Clint Capella give Atlanta, on paper, a strong defense. Murray’s scoring ability and facilitating will help ease the burden Young has on the offensive side of the ball. 

With Van Exel there to help grow the young all-star guards, as well as McMillan, the Hawks will be competitive not just this year, but for years to come.

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