The two biggest stories from a rebuilding San Antonio Spurs season will likely be Dejounte Murray's selection to the NBA All-Star Game and Gregg Popovich breaking the all-time regular season wins record. Murray's much-deserved selection will certainly open more doors for the team going forward, but recent data shows it's already paying off on the court.
On Friday morning, Pounding The Rock's Noah Magaro-George made an astute observation that speaks to the benefits of being an NBA All-Star.
As Noah points out, Murray's free throw attempts have gone up considerably since the NBA All-Star Break. Including Friday's game against New Orleans, he's now shooting taking 6.2 free throw attempts per game, which is an increase of 3.3. That's a 114% increase from before the All-Star break.
Of course, much of that can be attributed to Murray's increased aggression in driving to the hoop. In the 59 games before All-Star Weekend, he was driving 18.2 times per game, which led to 1.4 attempts on average. Before the total team meltdown against the Pelicans, he'd increased his drives to 18.8 and is now getting 3.5 free throw attempts on those drives. He's also increased his accuracy from the line from 76% before to 85.7% after.
Dejounte Murray is starting to get "the All-Star call"
Still, there's something to be said for getting "the All-Star call" with such a dramatic increase. I mean, we're talking about more than doubling his attempts since before he made the leap to being a star.
For someone who gets to the basket as often as Murray, getting just three attempts per game for most of the season seemed way too low. It's likely the referees are now giving him more respect in that regard, whether on purpose or not. As a result, he's jumped up a point in his overall scoring average and the Spurs are no longer last in free throw attempts (although they're still close to it).
As Spurs' play-by-play announcer Dan Weiss shared, the team as a whole is benefitting from getting more calls since the break.
Outside of long droughts or bad nights from downtown, offense hasn't really been too much of a problem for the Spurs this season, who are 8th in points per game through 71 games. Still, they could use more freebies to make up for their below-average defense as they look to get back to being contenders in the future.
Murray is starting to get more respect from NBA officials. Let's hope that trend is here to stay.