San Antonio Spurs 2018-19 Player Previews: Dejounte Murray ready to lead a new Big 3
By Kendall Garriss
Third-year San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray may be young, but he’s ready to take the franchise to the next level
Mid-way through the 2017-18 season, head coach Gregg Popovich, with consultation from Tony Parker, made the bold decision to hand the keys to the starting point guard position to a 21-year-old Dejounte Murray. The move signified the passing of the torch from one generation to the next and Murray did not disappoint with the new influx of playing time.
Now, with Parker having moved to the Charlotte Hornets, the point guard position is Murray’s and Murray’s alone. In his first full season as the conductor of the offense, expect Murray to make huge strides, both offensively and defensively.
On the defensive end, Murray is already a stud, garnering NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors at the age of 21. With that designation, Murray surpassed Kobe Bryant as the youngest player to be named to an All-Defensive team and joined George Johnson, Alvin Robertson, David Robinson, Dennis Rodman, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green as the ninth Spur to receive such acclaim.
Pop, on Dejounte Murray: "Other players are going to have to run like they’ve never run before, because he’s going to go. If they want to get the ball, they’re going to have to run with him.”
Dummy reporter: "Oh no. Did you tell Pau?"
Pop: “You’re such a wise ass.”
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) September 24, 2018
Last season, Murray showed Spurs fans a glimpse of what he’s capable of. Despite his slender frame, the Washington product is an electric athlete who can push the pace on offense, finish put-backs and slice to the rim for easy baskets.
Murray’s abilities a rebounder are also underrated. Not only was Murray the only sub-6’6″ player in the NBA to post at least 400 rebounds, 90 steals and 30 blocks last season, he also set the record for most rebounds from a point guard in franchise history (459).
While not as athletic or explosive, Murray’s ability to secure defensive rebounds and quickly ignite the offense shows some shades of a Russell Westbrook-esque style of play. The Spurs offense has traditionally been predicated on methodical ball movement, but with Murray at the helm we could see the shift to a more run-and-gun tempo.
Had been talking to some folks who have been around Dejounte Murray working out this summer. Some of them think if DJ does what they all expect, there will be a new Big 3 in SA as soon as this season.
— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) September 24, 2018
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However, as was the case for many Spurs players last year, Murray’s Achilles heel was his ability to knock down jump-shots with consistency. Murray was just a 44.3 percent shooter last year and only connected on 26.5 percent of his three point shots, making just nine of 34 attempts.
While he may never become an expert marksmen, Murray has been committed to improving his shooting stroke over the summer. Working closely with shooting-guru Chip Engelland, Murray said at Spurs Media Day that he has not done a complete overhaul of his shot but has made some minor tweaks and adjustments.
For Murray, the goal is to be able to hit the mid-range jumper with confidence and consistency, forcing defensive players to respect him. At 6-foot-5, Murray is already a skilled ball-handler who can get to the basket with ease but the next. The crucial step in his development will be centered around that midrange jump shot. Playing alongside a mid-range virtuoso like DeMar DeRozan will only help Murray as he continues to add more tools to his offensive repertoire.
With the significant roster turnover that occurred over the summer, Murray is actually now one of the longer tenured players on the team.
As such, a great deal of responsibility will be rested upon his shoulders as he, DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge attempt to usher in a new era of Spurs basketball.