Despite the San Antonio Spurs’ defensive woes in the 2019-20 NBA season, starting point guard Dejounte Murray managed to pick up All-Defensive team votes.
It wasn’t an easy year for the San Antonio Spurs on the defensive side of the ball, but that didn’t stop starting point guard Dejounte Murray from giving a wholehearted effort. The 24-year-old returned from an ACL tear during last year’s preseason with a vengeance, flashing the same upside he did before the injury. That charisma and energy earned him two votes for the NBA’s All-Defensive team for the 2019-20 season.
Even though he was faced with an uphill battle, Murray was a defensive menace this season. Being a pest on that side of the ball comes naturally for Dejounte, but returning from such a tragic injury kept him from playing to the best of his ability. However, many of the same traits that made him the youngest All-Defensive team member at 21-years-old flashed this season.
Murray finished seventh in total deflections during the season. Getting into passing lanes and disrupting the flow of his opponent’s offense is a specialty for the rising star. No player with at least 1500 minutes had more deflections per minute than Dejounte did. Similarly, Murray finished with 8.9 shot contests per 36 minutes, which was sixth amongst qualifying guards this year.
2019-2020 NBA All-Defensive teams:
First team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, Marcus Smart, Ben Simmons
Second team: Bam Adebayo, Patrick Beverley, Eric Bledsoe, Kawhi Leonard, Brook Lopez
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 8, 2020
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When matched up with top-tier competition, Murray elevates his play. Only Lu Dort of the OKC Thunder was more effective in defending James Harden this season. The following players combined to shoot (29.4%) when guarded by Murray during the season: Harden (3-18), Trae Young (8-18), Damian Lillard (3-7), Donovan Mitchell (1-6), Lou Williams (1-6), Russell Westbrook (2-5), Bradley Beal (1-4) and Paul George (1-4). That’s a combined 20-68, for those who are counting.
Unfortunately, the troubles of his team and a lack of playing time impacted his ability to make a dent in the voting. With more playing time and greater success, two other Spurs players would be under consideration as well: Guard Derrick White and Center Jakob Poeltl. One day, their time will come, but the Spurs need to improve their overall play first.
Still, it’s great to see that after the time off and a season that was far more tumultuous than most would’ve expected, Murray is still garnering some credit for his defensive intensity. There aren’t many players as dedicated to defense as Murray is, but there simply aren’t enough All-Defensive spots — Especially considering how much these teams are historically catered to frontcourt players. Only three guards were selected to this year’s team (four, if you consider Ben Simmons a guard) compared against five bigs and one small forward in former Spur Kawhi Leonard.
Regardless, Murray’s time will come. His heart and competitive drive won’t allow him to play out his career without making it back on those All-Defensive teams for his San Antonio Spurs.