Keegan Murray showing a balance of calm and fearlessness in Summer League
Murray continues to shine in summer league action
Smooth. Confident. Exceptional.
Listing the attributes of Kings rookie Keegan Murray could take a while. His first five summer league games between the California Classic and Las Vegas have turned heads and made believers out of plenty of naysayers.
It’s only summer league, but the 21-year-old rookie is averaging 20.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and a steal over his first five games. He’s shot 48.6 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three while leading Sacramento to a 4-1 record.
The Iowa star hasn’t been perfect. He’s turned the ball over three times per game and he’s blocked a total of two shots, but the early returns are pretty spectacular.
As the competition has increased, Murray has made adjustments quickly and shown growth. In the first quarter of the Kings’ matchup against Orlando on Saturday, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft looked overmatched against top pick Paolo Banchero. As the game wore on, Murray rose to the occasion and by the end, he was the best player on the floor.
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Murray’s development might not depend on his ability to get stronger or quicker while working with a professional training staff full time, although that can help push his ceiling even higher. His true path to improvement might already be built in.
Seldom do you see a rookie play within the flow of the game, like Murray does. He doesn’t force anything, even if he gets a little loose with his handle on occasion. When he’s open from three, he shoots. When he splashes to the lane and calls for the ball, it is with purpose. When he needs to create, he does and when it’s time to move off the ball and give someone else a chance, he makes the pass.
It’s only summer league, which we must continue preaching. Murray is the focal point of everything the Kings are trying to accomplish during the exhibition season and that will change dramatically when De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis step on the floor.
What stands out early is Murray’s ability to not hesitate and to do everything with confidence. Those are traits that are so difficult to teach. He wants the big shot. He calls for the big shot. He takes and oftentimes makes the big shot.
“He can shoot the ball, he keeps the ball high, he’s got a quick release and all that other stuff, but his feel, his composure, his patience is off the charts,” head coach Mike Brown told broadcast partners Doris Burke and Mark Jones during the Kings’ summer league game against the Magic.
He isn’t a chucker, there are plenty of those in Las Vegas. Murray is fearless and calm at the same time. Where one Kings coach after another have implored Harrison Barnes to shoot more, they likely won’t need to do that with Murray. He understands that he is there to do a specific job.
It isn’t selfish to shoot twelve to fifteen times per game, it is the way that the offense functions properly. Murray was drafted for his ability to stretch the floor. That only works if he actually shoots the ball enough to create space for his teammates.
Can Murray translate this skill to the NBA? The quicker he can, the better the Kings will be this season and over the next five years.
“His impact is phenomenal,” Brown added. “It’s going to be huge for us, especially as a young guy trying to get minutes and be productive at the NBA level.”
It is possible that Murray has a higher ceiling than first expected. Physically, he moves on the court like former NBA player Marvin Williams. His game resembles Barnes’ or even the 76ers’ Tobias Harris.
What can separate him from these comps is his ability to carve out his seat at the table within the walls of his own team. If he demands the ball and can prove that he will do what is best for the team once he gets it, then there might not be a cap on his future.
In year one, Murray is showing that he could be a third option behind Fox and Sabonis. For now, he’ll compete with Barnes for that role, as long as the veteran is still on the roster.
Down the road, there is easily a scenario where Murray steps into a larger scoring role and could surpass Sabonis as the team’s second scoring option, although the offense will still run through the big man more often than not.
How quickly Murray becomes this player likely comes down his mental approach, as much or more than his physical improvements. The fact that he will turn 22 before the season and that he’s extremely mature should help this transition. The opportunity to play major minutes as a rookie in the Kings’ rotation will also help.
You aren’t searching for a diamond in the rough with the No. 4 overall pick, but the Kings may have found a prospect with a ceiling that is higher than expected. It will take time for him to acclimate to the NBA like every player, but the early returns should have folks in Sacramento excited.
Not only did the Kings land a talent who fits perfectly with their current roster construction, but there is a buzz around his play and potential for more. It's early, but Murray looks like a nice find for the Kings.
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