After missing all of last season due to injury, San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray is ready to take off this year. Lengthy and fearless, Murray is one of the few guards in the league who could consistently put up triple-doubles.
The San Antonio Spurs were over the moon about Dejounte Murray‘s potential leading up to the 2018-19 season. The University of Washington product had asserted himself as the Spurs starting point guard the year before. The passing of the torch from Parker to Murray was a pivotal moment for San Antonio.
There are similarities between Murray’s rise and Parker’s ascension to the starting point guard role back in 2001. Both had to work to insert themselves into the starting lineup, both were lightning fast point guards, and both struggled to shoot the ball consistently from outside. But there is one area where Murray has a distinct advantage over Parker and every other Spurs point guard before him.
Few point guards in the league are consistent threats to post a triple-double. Among point guards, Russell Westbrook is the clear cut king. His ability to average a triple-double over the past three seasons is unprecedented. Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, and Ben Simmons are other point guards who can consistently reach for triple-doubles.
This year Murray has the potential to insert himself into the conversation of the best young point guards in the league. One way to do that is for him to consistently impact the game in a variety of ways and rack up triple-doubles while doing so.
When we last saw Murray he was averaging 8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. He’s come a long way since then. He’s sure to be a much-improved player this season. Let’s take a deeper look at how he could rack up triple-doubles in 2019-20.
Next: Scoring the basketball
Scoring the basketball
The last time he took the court for the Silver and Black, Murray’s scoring focus was primarily on getting to the rim. Blessed with a 6’10 wingspan, it was a logical plan of attack for the young guard. But as defenses started to key in on this strategy they started to back off Murray. They would dare him to shoot and pack the lane to deter him from driving.
One of the knocks on Murray’s game has been his inability to consistently hit three-point shots. It’s something that he is aware of and has been working on. Before his injury, Murray had been seen putting in serious work on improving his shot.
In addition to spending time with coaches and taking part in film sessions, Murray also spent much of this last year working on refining his shot. If you had checked in on his Instagram stories over the past months you could regularly see him getting shots up and working on his form.
In a brief video that came out over the summer, Murray could be seen playing in a pick-up game with fellow Klutch Sports clients like LeBron James. At one point Murray had brought up the ball and Chris Paul was sagging off of him, as many NBA players would. Dejounte pulled up right in his face, splashed it home, and gave him brief look as if to say “yeah, I have that shot ready now.”
Murray doesn’t need to become a dead-eye shooter to be a great player. He just needs to be able to shoot and make three-point shots enough so that defenses respect that shot from him and guard him accordingly. Similar to DeMar DeRozan, the importance of Murray developing a three-point shot is for his teammate’s benefit as much as his own.
Refined three-point shot or not, Murray is unlikely to be counted on to carry Spurs scoring load on a nightly basis. That duty will likely fall to LaMarcus Aldridge and DeRozan as it has in years past.
That being said, Murray is still an aggressive attacker, a mindful slasher, and a constant threat to surprise fans with a thunderous dunk. With heavy minutes and constantly involvement, there is no reason why Murray should not average double-digit points per game this season.
Next: Crashing the boards
Rebounding at an elite level
Dejounte Murray is already an elite level rebounder for his position. Depending on if you really consider Ben Simmons to be a point guard or not, Murray could very well be considered the best rebounding point guard in the league. He combines an outrageous wingspan, excellent vision and timing, and a sense of fearlessness that would make Marcus Smart nod his head in approval.
He’s already the best rebounding point guard that San Antonio has ever seen. He’s set the franchise record for rebounds in a single season by a point guard, passing Johnny Moore‘s record of 378. Over the course of the 2017-18 season, he had double-digit rebounds in twelve games and finished with 9 rebounds in six more.
Murray’s rebounding can take the Spurs to a new level. During Russell Westbrook’s time in Oklahoma City, the Thunder were consistently able to rank amongst the top teams in the league in both fast break points and pace. That was in part due to Westbrooks ability to crash the defensive boards, corral the rebound, and transition to offense in a flash. That kind of aggressive play wouldn’t have been possible without Steven Adams clearing the way for Westbrook to get the board.
Jakob Poeltl is well-positioned to take up a Steven Adams type role on the Spurs. By boxing out and clearing the runway for Murray to fight for rebounds, Poeltl will help improve the Spurs offense and Murray’s rebounding potential at the same time.
Rebounding is one of the strongest points of Murray’s game. It seems to come naturally to him and he is fearless when flying in for rebounds. San Antonio is only a few tweaks away from opening up even more rebounds for Murray and helping their entire offense in the process. I fully expect Murray to average close to 8 rebounds per game and to post double-digit rebound totals on a regular basis.
Next: Racking up the assists
Racking up the assists (and other stats)
Of three statistics that Murray is most likely to achieve double digits in, assists will be the most difficult for him to reach on a consistent basis. This has nothing to do with Murray’s ability to facilitate the ball. He’s proven to be skilled in that area. It has everything to do with the abundance of playmakers on the Spurs roster.
More from Air Alamo
- San Antonio Spurs: How Spurs stack up against the best teams in the West
- San Antonio Spurs: 3 Games postponed in wake of positive COVID tests
- Andre Drummond is everything the San Antonio Spurs don’t need right now
- San Antonio Spurs: White’s return to form skyrockets Spurs potential
- San Antonio Spurs: Four trade partners to watch for as deadline nears
While Dejounte’s injury certainly set San Antonio back, it also brought to light skills of players that may have otherwise gone unappreciated and underutilized. Pressed into the starting point guard role, Bryn Forbes helped run the offense for the first part of the season. Derrick White came into his own and took over the lead guard role mid-way through the year. DeMar DeRozan took on more playmaking responsibility than ever before and posted a career-high in assists per game.
There are just too many skilled playmakers on the Spurs roster for Dejounte to demand the ball to start every single play. There will be nights where it’s in White’s hands, DeRozan’s, or some other players. This isn’t an area where Murray can easily impose his will, like with scoring or rebounding.
He’s almost certainly going to be the starter. If the Spurs were to bring White off the bench that would open up more opportunities for Murray to generate assists. But until that happens, assists will continue to be an area where Murray will have to fight to reach double-digits on a regular basis.
There’s a chance that Murray could get a triple-double with steals. He’s got the defensive talent to record 10+ steals on occasion. His current career-high is seven.
In lineup’s featuring White and DeMarre Carroll, Murray will be free to take risks and jump passing lanes. Knowing he has strong defenders behind him to cover his back should inspire him to hunt for more steals.
Murray has a rare combination of skills that make him an incredibly promising and exciting young player. He’s the future of the San Antonio Spurs and is ready to make his stamp on the league. He’s bound to record a few triple-doubles on his way to making his name as one of the best young guards in the NBA.