Sunday Musings: Keegan Murray era officially begins in Sacramento

Murray meets media, offseason ready to ramp up

Monte McNair doesn’t usually show emotion. If anything, the Kings’ general manager is too stoic. His answers seem rehearsed, cryptic and require a decoder ring to decipher.

Every once in a while, he shows a side of himself that is unexpected. Recently, that moment came when the Kings’ brass met newly drafted Keegan Murray at the airport.

McNair’s expression tells the entire story. Regardless of the draft process or who the experts believed the Kings should select, Murray was McNair’s guy. And in order to land his guy, all he had to do was pick up a phone to the league office and have the selection announced.

“When he was there at four, we were thrilled,” McNair said Saturday at Murray's introductory press conference. “We get five minutes, but I don’t think we used anywhere near five minutes to call it in. For us, for sure, that joy was 100 percent. That was our whole front office and organization, not just myself.”

Murray wasn’t as convinced as McNair, but when the cameras started swarming to his table in the moments leading up to the selection, he figured it all out pretty quickly.

We can debate roster creation and the Kings’ potential, or lack thereof, to add more rotational pieces over the coming week or two. But for a moment, Murray was the man of the moment.

Any argument over taking Murray in the 2022 NBA Draft was never so much about Murray as a player, but where the Kings were as a franchise and their ability to make marked changes beyond draft night.

In his sophomore season at Iowa, the 21-year-old forward put up huge numbers, including 24.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals. The 6-foot-8 wing shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range and 55.4 percent from the field on his way to a first-team consensus All-American award.

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Murray’s skill set and ability to play the power forward position make him both a high-level prospect and a perfect fit in Sacramento. Murray was also the only player taken in the top eight of the draft class to make a visit to the Kings’ headquarters. 

During his stop in Sacramento, Murray met with both Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, which made an impression. He had dinner with the Kings’ center and then breakfast with Fox the next morning. The Kings put on the full court press in their pursuit of Murray and it was appreciated.

“I knew I built great relationships when I came down here in the organization as a whole.” Murray told media members. “So I knew I would have a chance to be a King and that came true on draft night.”

According to Murray, Sabonis and Fox weren’t the only ones to welcome him with open arms. After being selected, fellow Iowa native, Harrison Barnes, who Murray grew up watching, called as well, which meant a lot to the rookie.

From an unranked high school player to a top four pick, Murray’s rise has been meteoric over the last couple of years. He believes that he can play both forward positions, which could come in handy as the Kings attempt to add more talent to the roster.

“I think I can play different positions,” Murray said. “Obviously it depends who is on the court and who we’re playing. I think I’m able to adapt to different positions, it doesn’t matter if it’s small forward, power forward spot. Whatever they need me to do is where I’ll fit in and where I’ll be my best at.” 

Sitting in the front row of the press conference were Murray’s parents, Kenyon and Michelle, as well as his sister McKenna and his girlfriend, Carly. Noticeably missing from the festivities was his twin brother Kris, who is headed back to Iowa for another season with the Hawkeyes.

The two have been inseparable throughout their basketball careers and are almost indistinguishable when they line up next to each other on the basketball court. From sharing a car to living in the same apartment, Keegan seemed ready to venture out in the world without his mirror image. 

“It’s not difficult at all,” Murray said with a smile about leaving his brother behind at Iowa. “If anything, we’re glad that we’re apart. I think we’ve grown enough with each other at this point of our lives that it’s time to separate.”

With Keegan out of the mix, Kris will have an opportunity to step into a larger role next season at Iowa. He is considered a first round prospect with a wide ranging skill set like his brother. 

Murray will have a chance to play major minutes early in his career. He’s a mature player with a high basketball IQ and a calmness to him that you rarely see out of a young player.

When asked, Murray said he models his game after plenty of different NBA players, but Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton stands out as a good comp in his mind. 

“I feel like we have that similar kinda stature,” Murray said about Middleton. “A guy I feel like plays with really good pace and I feel like if he’s a guy I model my game after, I can have a really good career.”

Whether Murray starts or comes off the bench early in his career will likely depend on the changes McNair is able to make to the roster in the coming days through trade and leading into free agency. What we do know is that he will compete for major minutes as the Kings try to snap their 16-year playoff drought. 

McNair has one major piece in Murray to start the summer, but there is a lot of work left to do. Murray’s versatility will help, but the Kings’ roster that won 30 games a season ago wasn’t good enough on a nightly basis. 

“I think adding Keegan, somebody who he just said can play multiple positions, really helps us as we build it out,” McNair said. “But as always, we’re going to be aggressive and see what we can do to continue to add to this team.”

McNair said that he feels the Kings are in a good spot in the coming days to add, be it through free agency or via trade. 

Murray is expected to play in the upcoming California Classic in the Bay Area, as well as Las Vegas Summer League. The Kings have been busy adding players on two-way and summer league contracts over the last few days and there is potential for the team to put up a nice showing during the summer schedule.

Step one of the offseason is over. Now the real work begins for McNair, Murray and the rest of the Kings staff and players. 

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