Starting point guard Dejounte Murray is growing as a passer at the right time for the San Antonio Spurs as they make another push into the playoffs.
Coming out of Washington as a 29th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, it was well-known that San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray would need to learn the position. As a one-and-done freshman with exciting size and athleticism to match, Murray made the All-Pac-12 Second Team and the All-Freshman Team as a lanky guard from Seattle, WA.
We’ve known that Dejounte’s transition from prospect to true point guard would take some time. He averaged 7.6 assists per 100 possessions as a rookie—a rate that dropped by 0.9 as a sophomore and emerging starter. That season exposed the fact that he needs more time to develop before becoming a true point guard despite playing the position for most of his life.
However, after a year away from the game nursing a torn ACL, Murray has returned with a vengeance. The 23-year-old now boasts a refined jump shot, better instincts as a floor general and, most notably, a much-improved passing repertoire.
Murray is still turnover-prone with questionable decision-making at times, but he’s slowly and surely getting to the place where the Spurs need him to be. He’s directing his passes with more force, hitting his target in stride with a more precise and powerful motion of the ball.
Here, Murray attacks the basket after a strong crossover and draws three Boston Celtics defenders to the basket in the process. Instead of going up with the shot and banking on a foul call, Murray scoops past Gordon Hayward and finds a cutting Trey Lyles for a wide-open dunk.
It may not seem like much, but this is actually a big step for Murray. His first instinct in many cases would’ve been to take that up himself, as slashing is his primary mode of scoring. For better or worse, he’s actually taking fewer shots per 100 possessions than he did in the 2017-18 season. That’ll need to increase in the future as his role expands, but for the time being, it’s a testament to Murray’s unselfishness while starting at point guard.
Dejounte leads the Spurs in passes made per game with 42.3 and ranks second in various passing categories including assists, secondary assists and assist points created per game.
He’s also done an excellent job of finding shooters around the perimeter for open triples. That’s usually DeRozan’s job, but Murray draws a similar amount of attention on the drive and uses his own gravity to find teammates open for jumpers. Last night against New Orleans, Murray did just that for the Spurs’ second score of the night.
Just under two weeks ago against Memphis, Murray put his expanding basketball IQ to use by dropping off a pass to Bryn Forbes at the top of the arch before positioning himself not quite as a screener, but as a blockade for the defender.
These are just a handful of the ways in which he’s becoming the player that head coach Gregg Popovich envisioned him becoming. Even though Murray’s fit at the point guard spot is more out of necessity than nature, the Spurs’ floor general of the future is truly coming into his own.
San Antonio desperately needed an additional point guard last year in his absence, as sixth man Patty Mills is more of a scorer than playmaker himself and combo guard Derrick White took time to get adjusted to his role. Now that the Spurs have come to understand the dynamic shift between Murray and White, the two have begun to close games together despite Popovich staggering their minutes throughout the game.
Pop on Spurs' composure down stretch in Phoenix: "The only thing I say about it is, we are getting better. We are starting to figure out who should be on the floor when, and Dejounte & Derrick are getting more confident at the point position."
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 23, 2020
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Projecting forward, the duo should start alongside each other, hopefully with athletic freak of nature Lonnie Walker IV alongside them at the three-spot. For the first time in my lifetime, and assuredly many of yours as well, the Spurs have an outline for a freakishly athletic backcourt after relying on skill and finesse with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili over the last 20 years.
This isn’t to discount the unique athleticism that both of those players possessed (we all know Manu threw down his fair share of awe-inspiring dunks), but San Antonio’s three lead guards of the future have leaping ability, length and builds unlike anything we’ve seen in the Alamo City.
A huge part of why that’s going to work in the longterm is because Murray has the ability to set them up for shots. However, for the time being, he’s going to keep this thing rolling with DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge at the helm.
Spurs fans have got to be feeling good about their golden boy coming into his own.
*All clips courtesy of NBA.com, h/t 3 Ball*