Rebounding and playmaking help Murray routinely fill out the stat sheet
Murray has always been an excellent rebounder for his position and that hasn’t changed this year. Even as the Spurs frontcourt rotation has been in flux the team has found ways to remain a top-ten rebounding group, Murray’s contributions are crucial to maintaining that position.
This season, Dejounte is pulling down 7.1 rebounds per game, the seventh-highest mark among all guards, and an improvement from 5.8 boards per game last year. And honestly, watching DJ rebound has to be one of my favorite parts of his game.
Dejounte doesn’t have the build of the guards ahead of him in the rankings but he’s almost just as effective. He’s not brawny like Luka Doncic or James Harden and he’s not nearly as tall as Ben Simmons but there he is, just a bit behind the three in rebounds per game.
Watching Murray out-rebound players who are taller and more imposing never gets old. Here’s this wire-muscled, Inspector Gadget wingspan having guard flying in to pluck rebounds away from players with a significant height advantage. By the time they’ve realized he’s got the ball, he’s flying down the court already.
Having a guard who can rebound at an elite level plays right into Murray’s strengths as an improving playmaker as well. By not relying on a big man to grab boards for him, Murray can get the ball in his hands quicker and immediately push the pace – something the Spurs have been trying to more often this year.
Murray in the open court is a joy to watch but he’s made huge steps forward as an operator in half-court situations as well. Similar to the improvements he’s made as a scorer, the driving force behind these improvements is how patient Murray has become.
Whether he’s working with a rim rolling big like Jakob Poeltl or someone who prefers to pop out like LaMarcus Aldridge, Murray’s growth as a pick and roll ball handler is evident. He’s done an excellent job of working his way through his reads, getting his defender on his back to buy more time, and then calmly making the right pass.
In this instance, the advanced stats back up what we’re seeing on the court. Murray works as the ball handler in pick and roll on 34.3 percent of his possessions – up from 31.3 percent last year – and he’s managed to raise his effective field goal percentage from 40.7 percent to 46.2 percent while also dropping his turnover rate in these situations from 12.2 percent to 9 percent.
One of the more exciting things about Murray’s passing ability is that it still feels like we’re not seeing him at his full potential. With DeMar DeRozan still functioning as the Spurs lead assist man, we’re not seeing Murray have as much control over the offense as other point guards might have.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see DeRozan leading the Spurs attack. But it does put a limit on how much Murray has the ball in his hands and how often he’s able to show off his improved passing ability. At least we can take comfort in knowing that if DeRozan ever does miss time the Spurs won’t miss a beat with Dejounte stepping into a larger playmaking role.