As a small-market team, the San Antonio Spurs are frequently ignored by ESPN. When the pundits at the worldwide leader in sports do talk about the Spurs, they're more likely to be speculating about who is going to succeed Gregg Popovich than they are to talk about the on-court product or any individual player.
At this point, this is nothing new to Spurs fans. Seemingly every small market team gets coverage from ESPN — except for the Spurs. Ja Morant gets the Grizzlies noticed, LaMelo Ball is a highlight factory all by himself, hell, even the Kings can make it on ESPN if one of their fans does something outlandish like I don't know, pukes on the court, or when they recently fired Luke Walton. But mainstream coverage is scant for the Spurs.
That changed, sort of, when ESPN's Bobby Marks accidentally called for Dejounte Murray to make the 2022 All-Star team without even mentioning him by name.
ESPN's Bobby Marks calls for defensive play to warrant an All-Star nod
Speaking from his Instagram page, Marks, while talking about the Suns and Warriors, advocated for excellent defenders to be rewarded for their efforts with All-Star selections.
"We gotta start rewarding guys for their defense. I mean Mikal Bridges and Draymond certainly are All-NBA defensive players. I know the All-Star game is about alley-oops and scoring points. But both those guys deserve a spot right now, we've still got a couple of months."- Bobby Marks, ESPN
I actually couldn't agree with Marks more on this point! All-Star Games should reward players for their individual defensive efforts even if the All-Star Game itself typically involves very little defense. But if we're going to push for Mikal Bridges to be included, then Dejounte Murray damn well better be a lock.
Respect to Bridges, he's one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, but he doesn't hold a candle to Murray in terms of total impact.
DJ is one of just four players in the league to average better than 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on a nightly basis. The other three - Luka Doncic, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook, have All-Star candidacies of their own. Meanwhile, Bridges averages around 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists per game.
If we're looking at just defensive impact, well, Murray has the edge over Bridges there as well. He averages two steals a night to Mikal's 1.5 and the two are nearly neck and neck on blocks.
A deeper look shows Murray leading Bridges in defensive win shares (1.0 to 0.9), defensive box plus-minus (1.6 to 0.5), and steal percentage (2.8 percent to 1.9 percent). To be fair, Bridges does have a slight edge in opponent field goal percentage (43 percent to 46 percent) and does force more turnovers per 100 possessions (15.9 to Murray's 15.1), but those slight wins shouldn't make his case that much stronger than Murray's.
Keep in mind, Murray does all of that while having a usage rate nearly double that of Bridges's. So there's your argument. Dejounte Murray does nearly as much, if not more, on defense than Bridges while also carrying a much larger load on the other end of the floor.
But as we've mentioned time and time again, All-Star selections are not a pure numbers game. And while Bridges is a key cog in one of the best teams in the league, Murray is just an elite player putting up career numbers — All-Star numbers — on one of the worst teams in the league.
And that alone might be the difference between him making his first All-Star Game or enjoying the festivities from the comfort of his couch like the rest of us.
Yes, Bobby, we should start rewarding guys for their defense. But let's make sure we're applying that across the board and rewarding the players who really deserve it. That means putting DJ in the All-Star game well before Mikal Bridges gets his first taste of the action.