After leading the team in fastbreak points in 2020, San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray is the catalyst in upping their points in the open court.
Leaking out on the fastbreak has never been one of the San Antonio Spurs’ specialties, but it’s an area of the game that could easily be capitalized on moving forward. That starts, first and foremost, with the aggression of starting point guard Dejounte Murray. One of the more energetic players in the NBA, Murray finished his 2019-20 season with 204 deflections, tying with Nikola Jokic for the No. 7 spot in the league.
The qualities of Murray’s deflections are different from the traditional player. For someone like Jokic, deflections come when denying entry passes or tipping the ball out of bounds when it’s heading closer to the rim. For Murray, there’s more nuance to a deflection. When Dejounte causes a deflection, he’ll oftentimes poke the ball toward the opposite side of the court, giving him an opportunity to coast on the fastbreak and score a transition bucket.
This is largely why Murray led the San Antonio Spurs with 138 fastbreak points, or 2.1 fastbreak points per game last season. Mind you, this is during a season in which Murray reacclimated to playing in the most competitive basketball league on Earth. His hustle and heart never wavered despite him being forced to rehab for an extended period of time.
DEJOUNTE. MURRAY. pic.twitter.com/jbr8h1cZRz
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 9, 2020
Murray is a ball hound whose instinct and awareness help him keep an eye on the ball at all times. His 1.8 loose balls recovered per game this past season tied with Anthony Davis for the most amongst players with at least 1600 minutes in the season. Guys who log greater minutes have a tendency to let up so they can conserve themselves to fulfill their roles, but not Murray.
Tracking down loose balls will be essential to San Antonio’s attempt to uptick fastbreak production next season. Having Murray in the open court with Lonnie Walker IV will certainly be cause for excitement with both sides flashing the ability to set teammates up, finish emphatically on the fastbreak and knockdown a triple when coverage is drawn elsewhere.
To generate fastbreak baskets, three primary areas need to be covered. Someone needs to be cleaning up on the defensive glass and getting the ball out in transition, players need to be ready to run when a steal is generated and everyone must know their role. Regardless of DeMar DeRozan being the most experienced volume scorer on the squad who’s capable of running the floor consistently (Sorry, LaMarcus), Murray should have the ball in his hands during those scenarios — Even if someone else gets the rebound.
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Turning defense into offense is the best way to establish winning habits and was the foundation of the Spurs’ 67-win season in 2016 and Western Conference Finals appearance in 2017. Since Kawhi Leonard estranged himself from the franchise, there haven’t been very many Spurs who can make high-powered defensive plays and turn them into buckets. That’s what Dejounte brings to the table with his signature strip-and-score. One of the most invigorating plays to watch as a fan is when a player pounces on a ball-handler, pokes the ball loose and dunks it on the other end. It’s demoralizing for the opponent and generates a sense of urgency for the team. Like Kawhi before him, this is a signature for Dejounte Murray.
Murray generates steals at a greater rate than anyone on this Spurs roster. His steal percentage, 40.7%, leads the second-ranked player, Chimezie Metu bu 15.7%. Metu only played in spot minutes on a few short occasions throughout the year, so the next player up on the list is Patty Mills. The gap between these two players in steal percentage is a whopping 18.2%.
There’s a blueprint in place for the San Antonio Spurs to be a great fastbreak team that begins and ends with Dejounte Murray. No one said it’s going to be easy, but Murray is the floor general who can inspire this next iteration of Spurs basketball to pick up the pace and take advantage of their blistering speed as a unit.
That’s the best that Spurs fans could ask for from their up-and-coming point guard.