San Antonio Spurs: What happened to Dejounte Murray?
By Rob Wolkenbrod
San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray has gone from a crucial starter to the end of the bench in just 12 games. What happened?
About three weeks ago, Dejounte Murray was the talk of the San Antonio Spurs’ 4-0 start. Starting at point guard, he was cutting through defenses, finding his way to the basket with intensity. However, the focus was on the Washington product’s defense, using his near seven-foot wingspan to grab double-digit rebounds and wreak havoc on the defensive end.
On Nov. 10, against the Milwaukee Bucks, Murray played just nine minutes, a season-low. It was a far cry from the future starting-point-guard-in-the-making title he received in mid-October. So, what happened?
Murray started the first seven games of the season, hitting double-digit points in three of them. This included the final matchup he started in his highest minutes total of this campaign (29). Though, it came in the third game of the Spurs’ losing streak.
One game later, against the Golden State Warriors, the 21-year-old exited the starting lineup. He was placed by Patty Mills, who failed to find shooting consistency through the first seven games. It was a change for offensive potential, given Mills’ ability to shoot from long distance.
Since this move, the Spurs are 3-2, including a three-game winning streak that saw the Aussie post back-to-back games of 17 points and multiple 3-pointers. His performance against the Bucks wasn’t great (14 points on 33 percent shooting), but head coach Gregg Popovich played him a game-high 37 minutes. As noted, Murray played just nine and was the fourth time in five games he played below 20 minutes.
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Was this shortage of playing time inevitable? It happened after the 2016 pick played in 18 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers, shooting just twice and finishing with 6 points — all of which came from the free throw line. Friday’s result had its similarities, as Murray went 0-for-2 from the field, except in half the time and zero trips to the charity stripe.
Then again, the 6-foot-5 point guard averaged 11.5 points and 3.5 rebounds on 50 percent shooting against the Charlotte Hornets and Phoenix Suns. But he doesn’t offer the floor spacing that other Spurs provide off the bench, like Brandon Paul, Bryn Forbes, Manu Ginobili and Rudy Gay. When Tony Parker returns, that will further dampen Murray’s role in the rotation, if Popovich commits to a full rotation of floor spacers. Oh, and don’t forget about that Kawhi Leonard guy, who can handle the ball and do just about everything.
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The silver lining is Murray’s age and how young the 2017-18 season is. 70 games remain for a turnaround in what would have been his junior year in college. So, this may all just be a roadblock in the Spurs’ potential point guard of the future.