With Tony Parker aging and Patty Mills entrenched as the backup, can Dejounte Murray flash enough potential to be San Antonio’s point guard of the future?
In light of Tim Duncan‘s retirement, the San Antonio Spurs have begun a bit of youth movement. The signings of Pau Gasol and David Lee aside, San Antonio decided to churn the roster with younger options from previous draft classes.
2013 first-round pick Livio Jean-Charles, 2011 second-round pick Davis Bertans and 2010 second-round pick Ryan Richards made their way to San Antonio after spending time overseas. And unheralded center Dewayne Dedmon was acquired from Orlando.
Add third-year forward Kyle Anderson into the mix and the San Antonio Spurs used several roster spots on players with upside.
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However, the most intriguing player of the San Antonio’s youth movement is their latest draftee, Dejounte Murray.
The 49th-ranked prospect in the class of 2015, Murray spent his lone season of college basketball at Washington playing both guard positions.
Murray finished with averages of 16.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in 34 games before joining fellow Washington freshman Marquese Chriss in the 2016 NBA draft.
It looked like Murray was going to end up in the lottery, thanks to his unique combination of size, speed, and upside.
That did not happen. Other than Skal Labissiere falling to the Sacramento Kings with the 28th overall pick, Murray’s fall in the draft was the most notable.
He didn’t come off the board until the San Antonio Spurs selected him with the 29th pick, ending his slide and resulting in a possible point guard of the future for one of the best franchises in the league.
What makes Murray interesting is the aforementioned size and speed combination. Murray plays point guard at 6-foot-5 and matches that with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. That rivals 2015 top-10 pick Emmanuel Mudiay.
Offensively, Murray was a wrecking ball driving to the lane and barreling through opposing rim protectors and on defense, Murray flashed the ability to switch on various guards — big and small.
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The biggest issue for Murray, however, was his inability to knock down threes. Murray shot just 28 percent from beyond the arc last season, but more importantly just 39 percent on two-point jumpers as a freshman, severely hurting his overall field goal percentage.
The good thing is Murray has both time and the right assets to work around him. With Tony Parker and Patrick Mills in front of him for the foreseeable future, Murray isn’t expected to be relied upon early in his career. That’ll mean some stints with San Antonio’s NBADL team — the Austin Spurs.
That’ll allow him to work on his deficiencies without much pressure. Alongside that luxury, Murray also gets to work with Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland.
The most famous example of Engelland’s work is turning Kawhi Leonard from a defensive-minded forward into a top-ten player. However, this Grantland piece about Engelland working with Tony Parker was just as important for the then-future of the San Antonio Spurs.
He’s been a key asset for San Antonio in helping several players improve on their shooting and overall shooting consistency.
What does that mean for Murray? It allows him to find the best areas for his shot and perfect them. Murray was a bad shooter at Washington, but his jump shot isn’t broken.
If Murray can work his way into becoming a decent–a league-average–shooter, that, combined with his ability to get to the rim, makes him an intriguing offensive weapon for San Antonio.
The best thing about Murray is the time he’ll have, but what makes Murray an interesting prospect is his two-way potential. He has habits on defense that need to be fixed — i.e., effort — and what better team to go to than the San Antonio Spurs?
Last season, San Antonio ranked first in the league in defense.
And there are some tools there for Murray to work with. Alongside that freak wingspan, Murray finished with 1.8 steals per game, 2.2 steals per 40 minutes and a defensive box plus-minus of 2.5.
Certainly good tools, but like most young players, the issue is working off the ball. Upside and Motor’s Chris Stone suggested that Murray’s issue is working off the ball:
"One area Murray will need to improve is his off-ball defense. The 19-year old currently lacks the necessary awareness to avoid being beaten by the smart cuts that NBA players will make against unsuspecting opponents. Here’s a good example from the Huskies’ NIT loss to San Diego State. In the clip, Murray (at the bottom right of the video) gets caught watching the ball as his man reads the back of his head and makes a cut to the basket to draw a foul."
Working alongside Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard and San Antonio osmosis, Murray’s defensive potential has a chance to be realized much more than other players with similar upside.
If that is indeed the case, this gives San Antonio three players who can switch on the perimeter and defend both guard positions. Good for going up against the likes of Portland and Golden State.
At 19 years old, Murray’s future is, at best, wait and see. However, the Spurs selected him with the ability to be the next great Spurs point guard.
With all the tools in his arsenal, plus San Antonio’s ability to get the most out of players, time will tell if Murray can become everything people dreamed of coming out of Washington.