SA Spurs: Dejounte Murray’s breakout season is fueled by his drive to lead

San Antonio Spurs Dejounte Murray
San Antonio Spurs Dejounte Murray / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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San Antonio Spurs
Jeff Green, Dejounte Murray / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages

Murray is becoming the lead ball-handler that Tony Parker believed he'd become for San Antonio

Up until this point, the Spurs’ offense never truly ran through Murray. A point guard by nurture over nature, Murray hasn't been the lead operator in any iteration of Gregg Popovich’s offense. Instead, the likes of Tony Parker, Patty Mills, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White, or even Kawhi Leonard relegated DJ to more of an off-ball guard role. This is the first year in which Dejounte is unequivocally ‘the guy’ on offense, and he’s rising to the challenge.

Through 10 games this year, Murray ranks sixth in assists per game with 8.3 dimes per contest. That ranks higher than several generational facilitators including Luka Doncic, James Harden, and Nikola Jokic. What’s more impressive is that he’s doing so without turning the ball over—an issue that plagued him in the past.

Murray’s 3.91 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks second amongst starting point guards—just behind the ‘Point God’ himself, Chris Paul. He’s learned how to take advantage of his improved scoring output by pressuring the rim and kicking out to teammates. Murray’s 1.9 assists off drives rank him 9th in the entire league this year.

As a leader, Dejounte’s focus remains on putting his teammates in a position to succeed. He bases his decisions on the personnel that he shares the floor with, using his basketball IQ and a firm grasp on Pop's system to empower the players around him. This has been an ongoing process for the leader of San Antonio’s budding young core.

“I want to continue to grow on both ends of the floor, but mainly off the floor, because growing that trust and chemistry with my teammates—it will allow for great things to happen on the floor,” Murray said. “I’m going to continue to learn and work, but also be that guy that could answer questions but also ask them. I think that’s what leadership is all about.”

He’s an excellent pick-and-roll partner for Jakob Poeltl, leading the traditional big man with precise passes over the top of defenders or between their legs. Murray loves to find Keldon Johnson in transition, where the human wrecking ball remains one of basketball's most efficient scorers.

Murray frequently slings passes over to Derrick White for spot-up triples, and he makes an active effort to get Devin Vassell involved. Dejounte knows when to assert his will and balances that by digressing when a spark plug like Lonnie Walker IV heats up.

Dejounte’s assist numbers have certainly improved because of his increased touches. The sixth-year pro has the ball in his hands more than any Spur this year, but there’s more than meets the eye. During his tenure in silver and black, Murray has grown close with his teammates and adapts to their needs on the court. Now, he’s getting his chance to prove that he can be the leader and role model that Tony Parker believed he could be when he handed over the starting point guard position.