Prospect profile: Can Keegan Murray crack top four in 2022 NBA Draft?

Breaking down Iowa power forward Keegan Murray

James Ham
June 10, 2022

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This is the third installment of a series breaking down the potential selections for the Sacramento Kings with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft. 

The 2022 NBA Draft is just 13 days away and it’s time to start getting serious about potential prospects for the Kings at the No. 4 pick.

Sacramento’s leap to No. 4 has them in the mix for a handful of high-end prospects. It also opens all kinds of options for moving up, down or out of the draft. 

We’ve already profiled Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero. Next on the docket is Iowa’s Keegan Murray, who is scheduled to go anywhere from No. 4 to No. 7 in the upcoming draft. 

The Numbers

Stats: 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 blocks, 55.4% FG, 39.8% 3-point FG, 31.9 min

Age: 21 (22 on 8/19/22) Height: 6-foot-8 Weight: 225 Wingspan: 6-foot-11

Banchero is the safest bet at the top of the draft, but Keegan Murray is right behind him. An older sophomore, Murray was one of the best offensive players in college basketball last season at Iowa. 

Armed with solid size and mobility for the modern NBA power forward, Murray projects as a day 1 starter at the NBA level where he’ll likely stay for a decade or more. He’s an easy pick with an extremely high floor. The only question is what his ceiling might be.

Murray scored in double-figures in all but one game in his second season in the NCAA. He also broke the 30-point mark five times, put up 20 or more 26 out of 35 games and posted 10 double-doubles. 

Strengths

There is a ton to like about Murray. He’s not a three level scorer, but his efficiency from both the perimeter and in the paint is impressive. 

Murray isn’t a super athlete, but he knows how to use his length and strength to his advantage on both ends of the court. 

On the offensive side of the ball Murray ranked in the 99th percentile of all college players in points per possession at 1.213 according to synergy. He ranked in the 97th percentile in points in transition at 1.504 and in the 98th percentile in overall halfcourt scoring at 1.145 points per possession. 

Murray thrives in a few specific areas. He showed off his athleticism in transition and has the ability to get out and run, which is a prerequisite in Sacramento. He hit the 3-ball at a high clip, knocking down nearly 40 percent from deep on 4.7 attempts per game. 

In the post, Murray dominated at the NCAA level. He has a soft touch around the rim, can score with either hand and uses his length to shoot over the top of his defender. There are concerns about how this area of his game translates to the next level, but it should be noted that he can really score down low.

On the defensive end, Murray is a fluid defender who should be effective in the NBA, especially with all of the switching. He tracks smaller players well, relies on technique more than athleticism and has the potential to be a very good team defender. 

He likely won’t be a lockdown defender, but there is still a lot to like. Murray averaged 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. The steals might hold up, but the block numbers will be tough to match with the NBA space and pace game.

As a rebounder, Murray is solid. His defensive rebounding percentage of 20.2 percent is a little below Jabari Smith Jr.’s and just a tick better than Banchero’s numbers at Duke. His 9.8 percent offensive rebound rate is quite a bit better than both Smith’s and Banchero’s, as well as Chet Holmgren’s. He played a lot in the post, which helped his offensive rebound rate, but there is potential for him to be a solid corner crasher in the NBA. 

Weaknesses

This is a tough one. On paper, Murray is the best player in the 2022 NBA Draft. He has size, length, versatility, a high basketball IQ and the potential to be a very good two-way player. The question will be whether the skill set translates.

The biggest red flag on the offensive end is Murray’s usage rate. Iowa ran most of their offense through the 6-foot-8 forward, which led to a 29.7 percent usage rate. For comparison, that is higher than De’Aaron Fox’s 29.1 percent last season in Sacramento. 

Despite the heavy usage rate, Murray posted an assist rate of just 10.1 percent and he averaged just 1.5 assists per game. It’s extremely unlikely that he is given the opportunity to be this type of heavy usage player at the NBA level, especially if he doesn’t create opportunities for others.

Murray is really good from 3-point range, in the post and in transition, but he isn’t a high-level ball handler, which limits his ability to create for himself or others. This is likely the reason that Murray isn’t considered a top three or four pick in this year’s draft, despite his gaudy college numbers. 

On the defensive end, Murray can be a solid shot blocker for his position. He has excellent timing and an ability to track players moving toward the basket. The 1.9 block per game figure won’t hold up with NBA spacing and the inability to just linger in the paint and act as a weak side shot blocker, but he can likely still post around a block per game at the NBA level. 

Murray won’t be an elite rebounder, but that isn’t the case for most stretch fours at the NBA level. He can hold his own in this area, but like the block numbers, teams shouldn’t expect the same productivity. Everything looks a lot different at the pro level when the speed, length and athleticism of the players takes a huge leap forward.

Fit with Kings

Like Holmgren, Murray is a really good fit with the Kings. He can space the floor with his 3-point shooting, defend a few positions and he is an extremely high character player. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of a young Harrison Barnes. 

The reality is that when the Kings moved from the No. 7 spot in the draft up to No. 4, it changed their draft process substantially. Murray may not make it down to No. 7 now as the draft process has developed, but he also hasn’t moved into the top four.

If Sacramento is sold on Murray’s skill set and believe he is the perfect long term answer next to Domantas Sabonis on the frontline, then they should consider moving down one or two spots in the draft to select him, while collecting another asset.

This might not work out on draft night and the Kings might be faced with a difficult decision of drafting an incredibly high ceiling player like Banchero, Smith Jr., Holmgren or Jaden Ivey, or going with a strong fit player like Murray.

There is a good chance that Murray is an NBA starter for a decade or more, but he likely has a ceiling. Can the Kings give up a chance at potentially landing a star at No. 4? 

Player Comparison

High end: Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes 

Low end: Marvin Williams

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