Kings

Murray Primed for 2nd-Year Leap With Kings

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After knocking down a record-breaking 206 three-pointers in his rookie campaign, Sacramento’s Keegan Murray established himself as one of the league’s top snipers.

Murray’s stellar first season helped Sacramento get back into the playoffs, but what would a second-year leap do for the franchise?

Sacramento is looking to advance further next postseason, but the team’s front office chose to run back most of the same roster as last season.

So where can they find the improvements necessary for more playoff success?

Internally.

Summer League Murray Flashes Immense Potential 

Murray dropped 29- and 41-point performances in his brief Summer League appearances this summer. He scored the ball in a variety of ways and flashed a much-improved ability to draw fouls.

In two games, Murray shot 26 free throws. He attempted just 81 all of last season. Finding ways to get to the line consistently would be massive for Murray’s development.

When Murray took the floor for Sacramento’s California Classic, many were surprised the team chose to play him in a couple “meaningless” exhibition games.

But perception is everything. The 23-year-old didn’t view them as such.

This is where Murray could potentially blossom from good to great. After a tremendous rookie season, Murray isn’t content. This is a young player chasing greatness and the signs have been there from the jump.

Let’s take a gander at Murray’s year-to-year progressions:

Unranked HS Senior → Prep School → University of Iowa 

Murray was unranked as a high-school senior and opted to attend DME Academy, a basketball prep school. Murray was able to earn a scholarship to the University of Iowa, and just a short time later, a star was born.

While skeptics weren’t sure if Murray would ever crack Iowa’s rotation, he ended up starting four games for the team and averaged 7.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18 minutes per contest.

Those are respectable numbers, but Murray wasn’t quite making it onto NBA radars just yet.

University of Iowa bench player → top-four pick in the NBA draft 

Murray burst onto the scene in his sophomore season at Iowa. He started all 35 games for the Hawkeyes and his numbers increased drastically across the board.

Murray improved his PPG (+16.3), RPG (+3.6), FG% (+4.8), 3PM (+1.4), 3P% (+10.2), FTA (+3.7) and nearly doubled his FGA per game, while only seeing a slight (+.5) increase in his turnovers.

Extraordinary, to say the least.

Murray has a proven track record of offseason improvement, and if he’s able to replicate a second-year leap in the NBA like he did at Iowa? Sacramento may just have another star in the making.

Murray Making Moves

Following Murray’s return to the California Classic, the team certainly wasn’t masking his success.

Murray is a much different player than Leonard was at the same age, but Murray isn’t a finished product. And anytime a guy is drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard, it’s probably a good thing.

Many, including myself, put Murray in a box coming into the league. He was viewed as a prospect with a high floor and a low ceiling. The former was true but there is no ceiling on his potential.

The signs have always been there, and basketball evaluators are finally looking at Murray with open eyes instead of a closed mind.

There are certain things that scouts just can’t measure with numbers or analytics. Those things can be easy to slip through the cracks of the eye-test, because it requires serious attention to detail. One of those things is a player’s psyche.

Murray doesn’t run from adversity. As shown by his desire to play in Summer League, he actually seems to seek it out. And he has a unique way of staying composed through it all.

Take his first playoff series for example.

In his first three playoff games, Murray scored a total of just 10 points while shooting a mere 3-for-13 from the field. But Murray didn’t let it get to him. In Game 4, the young forward drilled five triples on his way to a 23-point, seven-rebound performance on the floor of the then-defending champs.

From there on out, Murray didn’t go another game without reaching double-digit points, and he even notched a double-double in Game 6.

Murray possesses something in his noggin a lot of players just don’t have. And if they do, they don’t always have a grasp on it in the way that he does at such a young age.

Looking Ahead

It’s safe to say Sacramento is relying on continuity and internal progressions this upcoming season.

Improvement isn’t a linear process, but after seeing Murray take control the way he did during Summer League play, the man has chance to turn some heads this season.

In the team’s playoff defeat, Sacramento lacked a consistent second scorer throughout the series. Different players had their moments, but outside of De’Aaron Fox, nobody found ways to consistently put the ball in the hoop over the course of seven games.

Last season, Murray lacked the ability to self create— 73.1% of his baskets were assisted. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if he’s able to bring that down without drastically sacrificing his efficiency? This team won’t just get back to the playoffs, they’ll almost assuredly make some noise.

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