Coming off of injury, San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray is poised to have a tremendous bounce-back campaign in the looming NBA season.
The 2019-20 NBA season will be huge for Seattle-native Dejounte Murray. His game has grown a great deal since cracking the starting lineup of the San Antonio Spurs back in 2017. Now coming off a major injury, Dejounte is poised to wreck the league in commanding fashion.
After a season of heartbreak, surgery and much more, No. 5 for the Silver and Black is back in action and ready to go. The fourth-year All-Defensive point guard is looking to bounce back in an abundance of ways this coming season. With the emergence of young talent like Jakob Poeltl and Derrick White, along with the Summer League success of Lonnie Walker IV, Murray is the OG from this “youth movement” that has hit the Alamo City.
Back in 2017, the then 21-year-old point guard took the league by storm, but not with his scoring, instead with the thing that many say is a lost art in this era of the NBA. No, not even the mid-range jump shot, I’m talking, guard defense.
Dejounte, while starting only 48 games, took the starting point guard spot from Hall of Fame floor general Tony Parker and managed to grab a spot on the NBA All-Defensive 2nd team. After a full-season away from NBA games, it’s time to refresh your memory as to who exactly Dejounte Murray is.
Next: Dejounte's Current Status
Dejounte’s Current Status
If you’ve played Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 2, think of Dejounte like the AC-130. Defensively, he simply works everything. In his lone season of being a starting Point Guard, which was really just half a season), he posted these defensive numbers:
5th best Defensive Rating: (101.0)
5th best Steal Percentage: (2.8%)
6th best Defensive Box Plus-Minus: (3.4)
From a defensive standpoint, Dejounte is among the NBA’s elite – his current status as a defender will not change. Regardless of injury, Murray has the one of the sharpest IQ’s I’ve ever seen on that end of the floor.
His on-ball defense, knack for reading passing lanes or ability to switch onto players of all sizes and be in a favorable matchup on 90 percent of those occurrences is out of this world. It is that good, and will more than likely become even better as he’s just under 23 years of age.
Offensively, he needs consistent work on his shots from 10 feet and beyond. In his last full season, Dejounte shot a deficient 33.3 percent from 10-to-16 feet. From three-point land, he shot an inferior 20.0 percent. This is a big deal because 42 percent of Murray’s shots come from this range.
Furthermore, Murray shot 28.6 percent from 3-to-10 feet, which account’s for another 22 percent of his shots. As you can tell, he must add a plethora of new ways to create consistent offense using his jump shot so it becomes an asset and not a liability. On a team where the two best players shoot the full-grain leather out of the basketball from mid-range, he must add to his bag.
Next: Expectations for the looming season
Expectations for the looming season
I expect a great season from Dejounte Murray – a year that solidifies him as a young star in the NBA’s near-to-immediate future. I’m not expecting a 22-6-6 on 50 percent shooting season like DeMar DeRozan, but a year in which he shows growth on both ends while maintaining a few key pieces of his game, pre-injury. I’m referring to his ability to finish at the rim, attack the basket and maintain his lateral quickness from before the injury.
Murray is similar to Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverly as someone you could call “Mr. 94-Feet.” His ability to move laterally on defense, as well as his North-South quickness, caused nightmares for teams all across America, and yes, even Canada. Dejounte’s offensive ability from areas 0-to-3 feet is (until further notice) unquestioned.
Shooting an impactful 71.4 percent from 0-to-3 feet as a 6-foot-5, 170 pound guard is impressive. All that added, his jump shot must improve mightily. It’ll come to a point where teams are now making you shoot jumpers a la Ben Simmons or Giannis Antetokounmpo (Don’t let the Twitter videos sway you, he shoots 26 percent on shots from 3 feet to three-point range).
While both Giannis & Ben rely on their athleticism, vision and strength to succeed offensively, that style of play continues to get exposed in the postseason. Dejounte is a great athlete who I feel could have a profuse amount of success using that style of play, but in the end, it would limit the potential of this team once the Playoffs roll around.
I expect Dejounte to come back this season with an improved jump shot and for all of the work he’s put in over the last two summers to show out in full come opening night. All of the social media posts and sessions with Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland seem to be paying off. Attention to detail, whether it be on his mechanics, rhythm dribbles or overall comfort with shooting the ball both on and off dribble, is a pre-requisite for his growth and the overall ceiling. If he obtains a consistent jump-shot, he’d add more to the dynamics of this offense. Dejounte should be the same defensively, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s even better. The constant throughout Dejounte’s rehabilitation process has been that he wants the public to know that he hasn’t lost his athleticism. Whether it be videos of him dunking or crossing opponents, he doesn’t seem to have lost a single step. In fact, he looks to have even gained a little more quickness and hand-eye coordination. That speaks volumes and will benefit him when defending in the full-court, half-court and in transition. He anticipates passing lanes very well and uses his wingspan to his advantage. Throughout the season, you’ll see him put the opposition in solitary confinement when defending one-on-one. Murray’s ability to steal the ball on hustle plays is sensational. Against the Cavs in 2018, the Spurs turned the ball over and Derrick Rose raced down the floor. As he reached two and a half steps past half court, Dejounte picked his pocket from behind and turned it into a quick bounce-back possession. He’s a grinder – a very good player who offers a lot to his team. His return will be felt immediately. I anticipate Dejounte to upgrade his game, which isn’t the most dynamic at this point. He’s a very raw player but shows promise in every aspect of his game. He needs a little cleaning up in pick-and-roll passing yet shows solid vision in transition and in those situations. He’s smart offensively, whether he’s passing up a decent shot for a wide-open look or utilizing the drive-and-kick to find the open shooter. Offensively he can attack the basket well and has a nice, soft touch to his floater. At this juncture, that’s about it. He’s hitting folks in “The Crawsover” with filthy handles, pulling up and hitting, which is something new we haven’t seen him utilize often during his NBA tenure. This emergence I’m expecting from Murray will be key to the Spurs’ future success.
Next: Projections for Dejounte in the 2019-20 season
Projections for Dejounte in the 2019-20 season
Statistics-wise, I expect Dejounte Murray to post this line:
15.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks per game on 46 percent from the field, 33 percent shooting from deep and 78 percent from the free throw line.
In his lone season as a starting Point Guard for the Spurs, Dejounte averaged a very dull stat-line of 8.1-5.7 RPG-2.9 AST on 44%FG. On face value, it is a dull line. When you break it down, you see he started only 48 games, played on average 21.5 minutes a night, which is standard for your 6th, 7th, 8th man in rotation, and on 31 nights he played 19 minutes or less! When the volume came for the rising star, the numbers and productivity increased by miles. From games 48-82, Dejounte posted this line:
11.1PPG-7.4REB-3.2AST on 46% FG.
In his lone season as a starting Point Guard for the Spurs, Dejounte averaged a very dull stat-line of 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 44 percent shooting. On face value, it is a dull line. However, he started only 48 games and played an average of 21.5 minutes per night, which is standard for the sixth, seventh or eighth man in the rotation. Murray played 19 minutes or less on 31 occasions. When the volume increased for the rising star, the numbers and productivity increased by miles. From games 48-to-82, Dejounte posted this line:
11.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists on 46 percent shooting from the field.
With increased minutes and a consistent starting role, we saw the Spurs’ point guard of the future blast off and become the second-best player on the team. While there will be rust to shake off and some issues to smoothen out over the first couple of months of this coming season, make no mistake, Dejounte is ready to take off and I’m not talking about the Migos.
Dejounte’s impact will be most felt in transition offense and defense. His ability to rebound the basketball kickstarts the Spurs’ transition offense like nobody’s business. Similar to a Russell Westbrook, who rebounds the ball exceptionally well, that jump-starts the offense and creates instant scoring opportunities for his somewhat-troubled offensive group.
Murray’s strengths suit the Spurs’ weaknesses perfectly as he’ll clean up a lot of the mess made last year. His ability to make plays on both ends will also help DeMar DeRozan, who put the roster on his back at times and created looks for everyone including me, in the stands.
Dejounte possesses a solid repertoire when it comes to passing. While remaining very raw, he’s only really scratched the surface of what he can be in that department of his game. Defensively, his ability to create plays will help teammates out who aren’t very good on defense. He’ll help stop and create runs for catch-and-shoot sharpshooters who excel in the open floor like Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills, and DeMarre Carroll.
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The biggest question of all is can Dejounte play well with and off of guys like DeRozan and White? It’s a significant question because he hasn’t played much with either teammate in competitive basketball games – outside of practice, they’re relatively new to him. It isn’t a matter of him “molding his game” to fit, it’s more so the ability to play off of each other through chemistry and team-based basketball.
White and Dejounte both excel off the ball – they’re excellent when slashing to the basket. It’s not the most frequent style of play, but when you have a great passer like a DeRozan, it’s almost too simple to get quick and easy offense.
Derrick’s shooting improved throughout much of last season. With the work ethic of shooting 500 three-point shots per day, White is destined to become a marksman from beyond the arc. DeRozan has a very high usage rate but needs to work on his outside game as well. Adding to his skillset goes to show we are getting a much more dynamic group come 2019. The Spurs center around team basketball and adding a swiss-army knife-like Dejounte Murray on the defensive end will propel the group.
Dejounte has a lot on his plate, but I’m certain he is up for the task. He was built and made for it. Like YFN Lucci said, “that Rollie fit my wrist like it was made for it.” In this case, the silver and black No. 5 jersey fits Dejounte Murray like he was made for San Antonio.