Here is what the San Antonio Spurs need Dejounte Murray to focus on in Orlando
In this new series, we’re going to cover what every player heading to Orlando needs to focus on on both ends of the court in order to help the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio just entered the bubble this week and we’re already hearing from the guys about how hungry they are to get back on the court. The first player we’re covering is the leader of the young Spurs and our franchise point guard, Dejounte Murray.
Before the NBA season was suspended, Murray was finally coming around offensively and quickly became a formidable foe against some of the best backcourts in the league. In 11 games from February eighth to March eighth, the 23-year-old point guard averaged 14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.9 steals on 47% shooting (take away a couple of games where he scored zero and six points and the numbers go way up). His mid-range jumper was practically automatic and he was gaining confidence by the day.
Fully recovered from a calf strain suffered in an overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on March eighth, Murray is itching for a chance to get back on the court not only to show off his new hairstyle but to pick up right where he left off. Having said all of that, let’s get into what he should focus on offensively.
Next: Play fast
The San Antonio Spurs need Dejounte to stay aggressive
This is an easy one, and we saw way more aggressiveness starting before the All-Star break up until the NBA’s suspension. In the regular season, Dejounte took 10 or more shots 25 times. In those 25 games, he shot 53% from the field and the Spurs went 14-11.
Not a great record, but certainly better than being nine games under .500, and three games above .500 would put them in the eight seed with a comfortable lead. Although it’s a flawed stat since some of those wins and losses were blowouts, there is a noticeable trend: the Spurs are a better team when Dejounte is aggressive.
He has proven he can be the primary ball-handler with any unit and with his improved jump shot, he can be a consistent threat both at the rim and behind the 3-point line. None of that happens if he does not stay aggressive.
Too many times throughout the season he became too passive too early and deferred to veterans like Demar Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. There were also inconsistent minutes and rotations that made it difficult to find any rhythm with his teammates. While some of that was on the coaches’ decision to test different lineups to try to find some kind of spark, some of it was on Dejounte’s own inconsistencies.
With Derozan’s upcoming free agency decision, it is unclear whether or not he will decide to opt-in and remain with the team. If he does leave, however, that leaves a lot of opportunity for players like Dejounte Murray to step up offensively and accept a larger role. While he is still young, he has been with the Spurs for four years now, if anyone is ready to step up, it’s him.
Next: Stay hot behind the arc
The San Antonio Spurs need Dejounte to keep shooting threes
You could probably tie this one in with the last one, but it merits additional discussion. He only attempted 1.6 three’s per game, but Dejounte converted on those 38 percent of the time. It’s clear he is a capable 3-point shooter in a limited capacity.
The only way to improve on that is to shoot them more. It’s not just a spacing issue, he’s actually a good shooter. Sure, his percentages will likely fall with more attempts but that’s the only way to improve.
Shooting more threes to improve his 3-point shot won’t just add another offensive weapon to his arsenal, it will keep the opponent’s defenses honest which will allow for more opportunities to attack the rim. Many of his 3-pointers this season came with little to no contest and that’s not a bad thing as long as he continues to shoot those when given the opportunity.
For the most part, the best point guards in the game are scoring point guards but the good news for Dejounte is that he doesn’t need to score at the same level as guys like Steph Curry and Damian Lillard to be one of the best in the game because he is really good at something most scoring point guards aren’t: defense.
Next: Be a leader on offense
Dejoutne can help San Antonio Spurs by taking control of the offense
As mentioned earlier, he has already proven he can be the primary ball-handler in any line but it would be helpful not only to Dejounte but to the Spurs organization if he was granted the keys to the offense. DeMar may be leaving after this season and considering he leads the team in usage percentage, someone is going to have to fill that void.
While DeMar did lead the team in usage rate and assist per game, Dejounte is an equally skilled passer. He actually led DeMar in assists per 100 possessions and has improved his assist percentage after it took a bit of a dip after his rookie season. He didn’t get the reps that many young players his age get when they’re tapped to be the franchise point guard but that didn’t stop DJ from making the most of his situation.
It doesn’t have to be any one player, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, even Patty Mills will help pick up the slack if DeMar were to leave, but Dejounte will have a real opportunity to take over as the main playmaker for the team. His ability to get teammates involved has drastically improved this season, and we all know he can score on multiple levels.
Dejounte is a player who plays better when his confidence is up. The only way to improve his confidence is to give him more reps running the offense and to allow him to learn from his mistakes. He’s only 23 after all, he’s still got a lot of room to grow.
Offensively there’s a ton of potential. Defensively he’s already established himself as an All-Defensive caliber point guard, among one of the best in the league. What should he look to focus on defensively in Orlando?
Next: Lead the attack
Dejounte Murray should spearhead the San Antonio Spurs defense
Sensing a pattern yet? One of the biggest problems with the Spurs team this season (even last season) was a lack of leadership on the floor. Yes, we all know Patty Mills is the heart and soul of the franchise and he is probably the most vocal leader as well. However, there is more to leadership than being vocal and the Spurs desperately need someone for others to look up to on the court defensively.
Who would be better to set the tone on defense than Dejounte? He’s a proven defender and is someone others can look up to on that end of the floor. The Spurs have been a really bad defensive team for a couple of seasons now. Yes, losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green amongst other key defensive personnel hurt, but this team is capable of much more than what they’ve shown.
The problem is they need someone that can consistently set the tone like Tim Duncan or Kawhi did night in and night out. If he can do that, others will follow suit. It’s asking a lot, no doubt, but if the Spurs want to return to being one of the best defensive teams in the league, they will need Dejounte to step up and be a leader and he can start being just that in Orlando.
Next: Hope for different lineups
San Antonio Spurs coaches can help by switching up rotations
While it’s true that the Spurs lack leadership defensively and Dejounte should look to step up in that role, there is one thing that is almost completely out of his control and that is who is playing alongside him.
Dejounte shared the floor with Derrick White and Lonnie Walker for a combined 374 minutes this season. Compare that to Bryn Forbes who is statistically one of the worst defenders in the league whom he shared 1020 minutes with.
Something just doesn’t add up. This isn’t to suggest that the Spurs should bench Bryn Forbes and never play him, he’s still their best 3-point shooter. However, who you put on the court matters, and too many times Dejounte found himself playing alongside defensive liabilities such as Bryn, Demar, Patty, even Marco Belinelli.
It seems like the Spurs coaches are going to experiment with rotations a bit more than they did In the regular season and Dejoutne should benefit from that. He’s got loads of defensive potential but it would be exciting for players and fans to see what he could do when he’s allowed to play with guys like White, Walker, and Keldon Johnson.
There’s only so much any one individual player can do defensively when he is playing alongside others who offer little to no help. Remember, Dejounte is only a point guard and oftentimes he is not big enough to guard the opponent’s best player, a luxury that other former Spurs had (thanks Kawhi).
Obviously this is a tricky one, especially considering it’s ultimately out of his control. All he can do is try his best to set the tone every night defensively and hope that his teammates will step up on their end.
Taking all of this on will be a heavy ask for Dejounte Murray but the San Antonio Spurs need him to be great if they want to return to the playoffs. He might not be able to lead them there this year but he can use these final eight games to set a great tone for the rest of the summer and heading into next season.