NBA Draft Profile: Keegan Murray Brings Two-way Versatility Spurs Crave

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Murray would bring the Spurs inside scoring

As the NBA leans further into perimeter-oriented offense, front offices have learned the value of balancing their lineups with skilled, versatile players at the four spot. Of all his traits, Murray’s lack of positional clarity might end up being one of his greatest attributes.

While Murray has an intriguing jump shot and confidence from range, it’s his inside scoring talent that binds the offensive repertoire together. He combines barreling physical strength and a 6-foot-11 reach to score at will near the rim. Murray welcomes contact and often generates fouls while deploying an array of maneuvers to protect the ball to score at the basket. He’s great at leveraging his defender’s position on the floor to get clean looks inside. 

Though post-scoring is frowned upon in many circles, Murray has shown an aptitude for generating shots at the basket with drop-steps, half-spins and sharp footwork from the low block. He doesn’t only rely on shots directly at the basket either—the Hawkeyes’ lead scorer uses his delicate touch to drop floaters and baby hooks from three-to-eight feet out.

After being the focal point of his team in college, Murray might be challenged to adjust his role when going up against NBA athletes on a nightly basis. That being said, Murray’s game is more based on intellect than athleticism. Taking smart shots instead of forcing them should help him endure the rookie learning curve easier than others.

But he has an outside game as well

Murray wouldn’t be a lottery prospect if his entire offensive game was sourced in paint scoring. His jump shot is clean, consistent, and dramatically improved from his freshman year. He makes 37% of his 4.6 deep attempts per contest this season, which are created by relocating around the perimeter, catching-and-shooting, and sliding out to the 3-point line after setting screens.

If he were a smaller guard, his release point might be more of an issue, but Murray uses his length to launch jumpers. At times, he’s flashed the ability to create 3-point looks for himself—though it’d be a big ask for him at the next level. He’ll be utilized best when paired with players whose gravity draws attention away from him. Having reliable playmakers to put the ball in his hands with a decent window to fire away will be crucial early on.

His release is decently quick, particularly for a big, and his follow-through is consistent as can be. A career 74% free-throw shooter, Murray projects to be a solid shooter at the next level despite his quick improvement in that area. Posting a 64% true shooting rate on nearly 16 shots per game, Murray has an attractive shot profile and the selection to match.

It’s worth noting that he’s a capable ball-handler who doesn’t turn it over all too often. He fights to retain control of the basketball when smaller players try to swipe it away from him, and he’s turning the ball over at roughly the same rate per 100 possessions as his freshman year despite a 12.2% bump in usage.

Murray thrives in transition both on and off the ball, making a b-line for the basket while creating lanes to dunk or change course for a layup when required. He generates second-chance buckets consistently, ranking third in offensive rebounds per game in the Big 10 Conference.

There is certainly an improvement to be made in game situations. Passing out of double teams can be an issue for him, and he has yet to put up one of his monster stat-lines against elite competition. With that being said, Murray reached 20+ points in 19-of-27 games so far this season and has 12 games of at least 25 points. It’s unclear where his scoring output will ultimately fall as a pro, but he’s earnestly proven that he can score at a high volume from the spots that modern basketball analytics favor.

Another concern is his lack of playmaking skills. While there’s no indication that Murray is a selfish player, he hasn’t showcased natural court vision or passing instincts that are desired from many modern fours. Still, if you ask him to make a simple pass in a team construct or swing the ball around the horn in a Spursian fashion, he can get the job done.

He’s susceptible to tunnel vision, but in his defense, he’s tasked with carrying a large offensive workload on this year’s Iowa squad. Therefore, it’s a likely byproduct of his current role. Still, he’ll need to speed up the time it takes to process certain one-on-one situations before resetting the ball in an NBA offense.