The San Antonio Spurs sorely miss Dejounte Murray
By Andrew Ites
The San Antonio Spurs have hit a rough patch after a hot start, and their recent struggles have highlighted the importance of Dejounte Murray.
The San Antonio Spurs lost a key cog in their machine when Dejounte Murray went down with a torn ACL in a preseason game against the Rockets.
The Spurs are an organization that doesn’t make excuses and employs the “next man up” philosophy, but they knew their team became significantly worse when they found out Murray was lost for the season.
San Antonio decided against making a trade or adding another point guard in free agency as Derrick White was expected to step up in Murray’s place.
White then suffered a preseason injury of his own and he is just getting back into a rhythm after returning to the lineup a couple of games ago.
The point guard rotation of Bryn Forbes, a recovering Derrick White, and Patty Mills has recently been exposed as the Spurs have lost three of their past four games.
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San Antonio misses Murray most on the defensive end of the floor.
According to ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus, Dejounte Murray was the best defensive point guard in the league last season and it wasn’t particularly close.
Murray’s length allowed him to be extremely disruptive with 1.2 steals per game, and he also had the ability to defend multiple positions as an oversized point guard.
The Spurs are thin at the wing position behind Rudy Gay, and Murray was often able to guard opposing teams’ best shooting guard or small forward while Gay locked down the opposition’s second option.
Forbes and Mills are well below average point guard defenders, and White is still learning the Spurs’ system in his second NBA season.
Forbes and Mills are superior shooters to Murray and they are putting up better assist numbers than Dejounte did last year, but their weaknesses on defense have caused the Spurs to fall to 18th in the league in defensive efficiency after finishing third last season.
The Spurs have always been near the top of the league in that statistic, including a top three finish in each of the last six seasons. However, Pop can only work so much magic with the current personnel after losing his best defender.
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San Antonio is hopeful that Derrick White can continue to develop as he’s given more minutes at point guard, but Murray’s injury was a tremendous loss for this team and it’s the main reason for their recent struggles.