San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray is ready to take an offensive leap
Jump shooting has never been point guard Dejounte Murray’s forte, but his recent output for the San Antonio Spurs suggests otherwise.
Since 2016, San Antonio Spurs fans have longed for the day when point guard Dejounte Murray would take a step toward being a full-fledged offensive threat. Before his ACL-tear in the preseason last year, Murray spent his summer refining his jump shot and practicing to become a reliable scorer. Although it took him some time to readjust to game scenarios, Dejounte finally looks fully comfortable once again.
Since the All-Star break, Dejounte is shooting 47.2 percent on pull-up jumpers and 62.5 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities. He’s a 47.8 percent three-point shooter since January and has shown off a refined mid-range shot to match. The degree of difficulty on his shots isn’t always easy either, as Murray has become adept at getting his shot off from the dribble and by pulling up in the space of nearby defenders.
According to Basketball Reference’s game score, four of Dejounte’s five best games have come in the last 28 days including single-game career-highs in points, field goals, triples, field goal attempts and three-point attempts. He’s finally learning how to be a consistent scorer without relying solely on his athletic ability.
In the Spurs’ most recent win against the Charlotte Hornets, Dejounte started the game by deferring to his teammates. That began to change when he scored his first basket midway through the second quarter en route to 21 in the contest.
Here we see Dejounte zip into the paint on the fastbreak, attracting four defenders in the process. He defers to his rook, Keldon Johnson, who quickly recognizes that he doesn’t have a clear attempt. Instead, he returns the pass to Dejounte, who spots up for the triple.
In this instance, we can see Murray’s thought-process come to light in a display of improvisation and wise decision-making. The floater he passed out of was heavily contested, but the Dejounte of the past would’ve taken that anyway and hoped for the best. Now that his shot is falling and he’s confident in his ability to make threes, he was able to get a smarter shot to fall.
Even though outside shooting has become so prominent in today’s game, Murray’s playstyle includes a decent bit of mid-range shooting. Of the 74 players to take at least 100 mid-range jumpers this season, Dejounte ranks eighth in terms of efficiency at roughly 49 percent. His shot selection is no longer an issue because he can finally be relied upon from any zone. Dejounte is no longer confined to contested layups and floaters since he’s expanded his scoring arsenal.
It’s one thing to step into a jumper, but there’s a whole different set of skills to assume when it comes to creating that shot. Murray has a tendency to force matchups with big men or slower small forwards and dribble his way into space.
During this play against the Utah Jazz, Dejounte loses the coverage of guard Donovan Mitchell and sees two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert switch onto him. Without hesitation, Murray pulls up for a baseline J that sinks with ease. Being a speedy and versatile guard, Murray knows that he has an advantage against Gobert with a bit of space between him. His jumper already has a high arch, so he knows he can drain one over top of the Stifle Tower.
Going at a player with the defensive reputation of Gobert is absolutely fearless, which is one of the best ways to categorize Murray. In the face of adversity, the rising talent tends to push himself to be better instead of giving in and getting scared.
Murray has played in five games on the tail end of a back-to-back this season. In those games, he averages 14 points on 61 percent from the field and 70 percent from deep. He performs exceptionally well on the road, especially as of late, and steps up against big-time competition.
Matched up against someone he considers a mentor in superstar LeBron James, Murray shows no signs of fear and goes right at The King. He catches LeBron’s attention with a few nifty crossovers, steps into a jump shot and drains it through contact.
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Most people would be terrified to go against arguably the greatest player of all-time, but Murray has a tendency to play well against LeBron-led teams. Even when he was a sophomore just getting the hang of the NBA, Dejounte had some of his best performances against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Murray is pretty easily the Spurs’ best closer, ranking No. 1 on the team in field goal percentage during clutch scenarios. For some ridiculous reason, the team doesn’t go to him all that often late in games and instead allow Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes, who both shoot below 35 percent in the clutch, to take more shots than him. Head coach Gregg Popovich should take a look at his starting guard as the team’s true closer instead of relying on players who stutter under pressure. If Murray had a fraction of the clutch shots that DeMar DeRozan has this year, San Antonio’s record would look vastly different.
Of the 23 games in which Dejounte has attempted double-digit shot attempts this year, he’s only failed to reach 50 percent field goal shooting in six of them. It’s time for San Antonio to start taking him more seriously as a volume scorer because he’s proving himself worthy of the shots.
Popovich would be wise to loosen the reins and let the offense run through his point guard.
*All stats and clips courtesy of NBA.com, h/t 3Ball*