What Keegan Murray offers defensively
Many high-volume offensive weapons tend to slack on defense or simply haven’t put in the time to evolve that side of their game. That’s not the case for Murray, whose defensive capabilities might be just as intriguing as his offensive upside. The projected four-man is quite mobile for a player of his stature with impressive lateral quickness that allows him to switch onto smaller guards and defend on the perimeter.
That mobility extends near the rim, where he can efficiently rotate and alter shots—whether that be as a primary defender or weak-side shot blocker. Murray averages two blocks per game with eight games of three or more rejections this season. His timing is acute and his court awareness extends beyond his years.
Murray has active hands, which he uses to swipe the ball away from players near the rim or jump into a passing lane and generate fastbreak sequences. For better or for worse, he chases after defensive highlights that can swing momentum in his team’s favor.
Though he has some of the skills for it, Murray may struggle as a small-ball five in the NBA. Playing against the strongest, biggest and most seasoned basketball players in the world is no easy task. Should he find himself matched up against 7-footers, Murray might have trouble keeping up.
Simply as a frame of reference, Murray is built similarly to 76ers forward Tobias Harris. They are currently listed at the same height and within one lb of each other. Though Murray flashes far more promising instincts, tools, and understanding as a defender, he could endure similar challenges to Harris. Teams could try frequently drawing him to the perimeter, or switching him onto a big to make him uncomfortable.
Through all of the ‘what if’s,’ Murray was already considered an NBA Draft prospect as a freshman for his defensive versatility. All signs point toward him becoming an impact defender at the next level during an age in which defensive flexibility is the golden ticket for pro coaches.