- The Kings Beat with James Ham
- Keegan Murray earns All-Rookie honors, Mike Brown scouts Sasha Vezenkov
Keegan Murray earns All-Rookie honors, Mike Brown scouts Sasha Vezenkov
Kings continue to pull in offseason awards
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The good times keep rolling for the Sacramento Kings.
When the NBA announced their All-Rookie team Monday morning, Keegan Murray, with his patented straight face, can be found on the graphic for the First Team alongside Paolo Banchero, Walker Kessler, Bennedict Mathurin and Jalen Williams. Recognition, like De’Aaron Fox winning the NBA’s Clutch Player of the Year, Mike Brown earning the NBA’s Coach of the Year award and Monte McNair taking home NBA Executive of the Year, was expected.
Kings forward Keegan Murray named to the NBA's All-Rookie first team.
— James Ham (@James_HamNBA)
May 8, 2023
This is what happens when a team decides to break the cycle of chaos and dysfunction and focus on winning.
The awards for the 2022-23 Kings squad are likely to continue on Thursday when Domantas Sabonis is a virtual lock to make either first, second or third team All-NBA. Fox, who finished 11th in MVP balloting, has a shot to make the squad as well.
Winning cures all, even in Sacramento, a long standing NBA outpost on the fringe. Winning cures all, even for a player like Fox who toiled in obscurity for five seasons only to become a star in year six. Winning cures all for a coach who had to wait eight years to get another shot and a general manager who came into the season as a lame duck and only got a contract extension in January.
Even Sabonis, a now three-time All-Star, found redemption in this season after so many talking heads lambasted the Kings for trading Tyrese Haliburton for him at last year’s trade deadline.
From the lighting of the beam to a dream season to a riveting seven-game first round series against the Golden State Warriors, the Kings have captured the imagination of the NBA and reinvigorated an incredible fanbase that was laying dormant after 16 seasons of failures.
Murray’s inclusion on the first team isn’t a surprise. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft started 78 games for a 48-win team that finished with the third best record in the Western Conference.
“I’m excited, I’m thrilled to see him come back next year, because he’s got a chance to really take off,” Mike Brown said of Murray during his postseason exit interview.
As he learned on the fly and made adjustments throughout the year, Murray averaged 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 29.8 minutes per game. He shot 45.3 percent from the field and an incredible 41.1 percent from long range while setting the NBA rookie record for 3-point makes with 206.
Murray showed flashes of who he can be during the regular season and the playoffs, but in year one, he more often took a backseat to the veterans on the team and focused on being a floor spacer. In year two, he has goals of expanding his role in a similar way that he did at Iowa between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I kinda relate it to my second year in college when I was behind Luka Garza and I just had to figure out a way, figure out a path, and I made a jump my sophomore year,” Murray said last week. “It might not be that big of a jump, statistics wise, but whatever I can do to imprint my game onto the game that night, is what I’ll do to help this team.”
The leap forward Murray is speaking of is when he pushed his scoring average from 7.2 in his first NCAA season to 23.5 in year two. His rebounding totals, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage all skyrocketed as well, as his opportunities increased.
There is no guarantee that Murray will be given this type of opportunity in year two, but multiple people within the Kings’ organization have the belief that the 22-year-old has star potential. There is hope that he can elevate his game in the near future to become a major scoring option alongside Fox and Sabonis.
Murray received 88 first team votes and another nine second team votes from a panel of 100 media members. That means that three media members left him off their ballot completely.
This is only the beginning for Murray. His untapped potential is still off the charts. He showed only a piece of what he can be as a rookie and the team will work with him all summer to improve his body and better define his game.
According to EuroHoops, Brown is on his way to Greece for an all-expense paid vacation courtesy of the Kings. On the itinerary is a stop to see Sasha Vezenkov, the prized European prospect that the team hopes to lure to Sacramento this summer.
Sacramento Kings coach Mike Brown will be in Greece for Game 5 to watch Vezenkov live #Euroleague#playoffs
— Eurohoops (@Eurohoopsnet)
May 8, 2023
Vezenkov, who the Kings acquired the draft rights to last summer, has become a phenomenon in Europe. He and his Olympiacos BC club are currently locked up with Fenerbahçe in a best of five series.
“Right now, we’re enjoying watching him and his team and they’ve had a fantastic year and Olympiacos is a fantastic club,” McNair said last week. “We’ve been able to get to know him a little bit. We’ll sit down, see what our offseason looks like here in the next few weeks and that will be a decision for later in the summer. Right now, I’m enjoying watching him in the playoffs.”
The 6-foot-9, 225 pound power forward can shoot the lights out and would be a welcomed addition to the rotation next season if the Kings can convince him to leave the European game for the NBA this summer.
He’s averaging 17.6 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 54.6 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from three in EuroLeague play.
Brown isn’t the first visitor from Sacramento this year for Vezenkov. Assistant coach Jay Triano made the trip out during All-Star week and the tandem of Monte McNair and Phil Jabour stopped in for a visit in mid-March.
Vezenkov signed an extension with Olympiacos last summer, but he has an NBA buyout clause again this summer. Whether he’s willing to trade stardom in Europe for a role in Sacramento is a big question. The Kings have some cap space to sign him as well as a few exceptions that might work.
Sacramento also own his rights, so they have an opportunity to push a decision on him until slightly later in the free agency window, as long as they reserve the necessary cap flexibility.
Sources around the Kings have been confident in their pursuit of Vezenkov for the last few months. Sending Brown over to potentially discuss role and fit with the Kings is the next logical step in the franchise’s recruitment.