San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray needs to make adjustments for the sake of the team
By Dylan Carter
It hasn’t been a strong showing for San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray in Orlando, but he still has three more games to improve his play.
Momentum was immensely helpful for the reintegration and development of San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray. That was stripped from the 23-year-old when the NBA season abruptly ended in March. Now that the league is back in action, Murray is having a hard time finding his footing again.
Dejounte has failed to play up to his potential in these five games despite some flashes of progression. He hasn’t been shy with his shot attempts, notching 12.4 field goal attempts compared against his 9.5 average through the season as a whole. Still, that field goal percentage has plummeted eight percent during these five games in the Orlando bubble.
Practical application of skills and confidence are key for Murray to get back on track. Fundamentally, he’s got some work to do, but Dejounte is fearless in almost every situation. The keyword there is “almost” because Murray has shied away from way too many open 3-point shot attempts during the restart. This is the first adjustment that he needs to make for the betterment of the team.
Dejounte Murray put in a lot of work to become a better shooter, but he says he's not satisfied: "I make shots and a miss shots, but at the end of the day I want to be great. I love basketball that much. I’m going to continue to work at it.” #Spurs
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) August 2, 2020
Dejounte’s shot mechanics and confidence from deep need a boost.
While scoring isn’t necessarily his forte, Murray is a solid ball-handler with quality shot creation when engaged. These apply very well in the mid-range, where he pulls jumpers without a doubt in his mind. However, Murray is extremely hesitant to launch 3-pointers at this point in his career. He’s connected on just three of his 11 triples inside the bubble thus far despite hitting 36.6 percent on the season.
Having DeMar DeRozan as a primary shot creator means there will be open perimeter jumpers for his Spurs teammates and oftentimes, Murray is the man left with space. For his team to have any chance of making it into these playoffs by winning out the regular season, Murray needs to start taking more of these without hesitating.
One thing to note is that Murray usually doesn’t have his feet set properly when he catches these jumpers. Great shooters keep their hands and feet ready to receive passes on the perimeter and go right into their shooting motion. Murray hasn’t done that as well in the restart as he did before the season stopped in March. If he shuffles his feet to set up for the jumper, he’s allowing defenders more time to close out while disrupting the flow of ball movement.
Next: Mindfulness in the mid-range
Dejounte Murray can do damage if his shot selection and awareness improve in the San Antonio Spurs’ final games.
Watching Dejounte’s growth as a mid-range jump shooter has been a spectacle for Spurs fans. An unsteady shooter as a rookie, Murray never showed much of a tendency to score outside of the paint in his early seasons. The improved jumper has been a major talking point since the last offseason before he suffered his ACL injury. In his first season as a full-time starter, Murray proved that his shot creation and mid-range jumper are coming along.
Inside the bubble, we’ve seen the pros and cons of Murray’s shot. His 21-point outing against the Memphis Grizzlies was efficient and effective as DJ went 9-of-19 with a double-double. On the flip side, he’s also gotten into a habit of forcing shots when he doesn’t need to. It comes off like Murray he feels that he has something to prove when taking a lot of these field goal attempts instead of buying into his position and passing out.
Murray isn’t wrong about having something to prove — Many critics doubt that he’ll ever be an effective jump shooter. Perhaps if he keeps shooting the way he has at 46.2 percent on middies, he can put that narrative to rest. Still, there are ways for him to improve his percentages by getting to the zones where he’s most confident.
A double-double for @DejounteMurray ?#GoSpursGo | #WholeNewGame pic.twitter.com/WqPeC3sx1x
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 3, 2020
Through these five games, Murray is 3-for-11 on standstill jumpers contrasted with his 46 percent shooting on pull-ups and stepbacks. Like DeRozan, who serves as a great role model for the mid-range savant, Murray needs to prioritize the shots that he’s most comfortable with — even if that means going out of his way to get to his spots.
Murray is a sure-fire bucket from the baseline and hit 43.8 percent of his shots from the right corner this season. Getting to that side of the floor for the majority of his jumpers would do dividends for the up-and-comer. This would take an offensive strategy similar to how the Spurs cater to LaMarcus Aldridge‘s affinity for his left side for those signature mid-range jumpers.
Turnovers, which have previously been an issue for Dejounte, have come down as of late. That’s a great step toward improving his overall awareness on the court but there’s plenty of work to be done. The next step for the young guard is to prioritize getting to his spots on the floor.
Next: Finishing shots in the paint
Sooner than later, the San Antonio Spurs need Dejounte Murray to make his shots in the paint.
This has been the strangest revelation of the restart for Dejounte Murray. All season long, the Spurs point guard has been stellar when finishing through traffic near the rim. It’s the skill that made him a scoring threat through college and in his first few years as a pro, but through five games in Orlando, he’s at just 36.4 percent in the restricted area. For reference, he made 55.6 percent of his attempts in there during the season as a whole.
Some of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. They’ve faced teams that emphasize paint defense in Memphis, Philadelphia and Denver including two All-NBA caliber centers.
Even so, missing this many shots in the paint is unacceptable. His floater needs serious work to become a viable tool for him in the long run, but the task at hand is simple: Make your layups! Murray does a great job of creating space and finding unique angles to get shot attempts off. He’s extremely athletic and crafty when going up with his layups, putting the ball in spots that are hard to block on most occasions.
DJ gonna DJ. ?@DejounteMurray | #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/KOEmDHwbtH
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 4, 2020
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Unfortunately, those theatrics alone aren’t going to cut it. He seems to lose focus and energy while getting to the rim before emphasizing the actual shot itself. Murray needs to make more cuts to the basket when he’s off the ball and instead of trying to be fancy, he has to start being more aggressive. In 28.2 minutes per game so far in the bubble, Murray is shooting just 2.4 free throws per game.
For a guy who’s so talented at attacking the rim, it feels like Dejounte is forcing himself to be someone else. This is a gritty, hardworking defender who hasn’t reached the heights he believes that he can achieve. For as much as he commits to the grind, putting work in the gym doesn’t automatically mean that it’ll translate on the court. Being flashy certainly works, but there are plenty of times when Murray needs to apply that “dog” mentality which he exemplifies on defense to his offensive game.
If he looks down his bench, he can learn a lot from some of the guys he plays with. DeRozan and rookie Keldon Johnson welcome contact and finish at the rim consistently. Belinelli and Gay hunt the shots that they feel most confident in and have made long NBA careers from it.
Don’t count Dejounte Murray out just yet. The Spurs see his potential as a leader and contributor for a long time and just because he’s struggling now doesn’t mean he won’t learn from it and apply these skills later. This is what the Orlando restart is about for the silver and black.