Could Dejounte Murray be the centerpiece of a true contender?

Dejounte Murray
Dejounte Murray / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

After being without an NBA All-Star for two straight seasons, the San Antonio Spurs saw that streak end with the emergence of point guard Dejounte Murray. Murray put up historic numbers en route to his first All-Star selection and finished the season as the only player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, and two steals per game. 

That's definitely impressive, but he appears capable of further elevating his game. Assuming he will, it's fair to question if he could eventually be good enough to be the centerpiece of a true contender. Whether he can remains to be seen, but the Spurs will certainly try to build around Murray.

After all, the Spurs have been looking to build a contender around a superstar post-Big Three and thought that  Kawhi Leonard was that player. Of course, he and his uncle had other plans. They then tried to build around All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan but ultimately ended up treading water for three seasons. 

With Murray, they’ll have another shot at constructing a contender, and, luckily, the Spurs won’t be building from scratch. Ironically, San Antonio has already built a roster that complements Murray's strengths even though they didn't know he was going to break out. They've added sharpshooting in free agency with Doug McDermott, via trade with Josh Richardson, and in the draft with Devin Vassell and Joshua Primo, giving Murray knock-down shooters to pass to.

Additionally, Keldon Johnson has emerged as both an above-average shooter and, potentially another star to pair with Murray. That’s all good, but with Murray as their best player, San Antonio will only go as far as he can lead them. 

Being a contender centerpiece is a tall order

That's a tall task for a player who has only recently become a star, but he has 11 postseason games under his belt and that's useful experience. Murray will also have time to grow into a franchise centerpiece considering the Spurs won't be able to compete for a championship right away. Still, being the focal point of a contender is a very different animal than being a rotation player, and teams will come up with strategies to limit his effectiveness.

Therefore, Murray will need to shore up a couple of areas for him to be ready to carry a team deep into the postseason. His biggest issue is that he isn't particularly efficient as a scorer. Actually, his 53.3% true shooting percentage is well below league average.

This is largely due to his 3-point percentage, which he hit on only 32.7 percent of his attempts. What's more, despite knocking down nearly 80% of his free throws, he only attempted 3.6 per game, a surprisingly low number for an All-Star, contributing to his lack of efficiency.

Dejounte Murray has the tools but still must improve

To his credit, in the second half of this season, Murray showed growth as a 3-point shooter and at drawing free throws. That caused his true shooting percentage to jump to 57.8%, above league average, and resulted in him scoring 25.1 points during that span. It demonstrates that if he gets better in those two aspects, he will be able to evolve as a scorer and become more difficult to stop.

Ultimately, even after a historic season, Murray has the potential to improve in a couple of key areas. He'll need to continue developing as a spot-up 3-point shooter, as well as draw more free throws and shoot a higher percentage from the line. That's  a lot to ask, but Murray's already shown that he can, and it would help him take the next step as a scorer.

Pass or Pursue: Top 10 NBA Center Free Agents. dark. Next

He'll also have more shooting around him next season, and he could easily average at least ten assists per game. If he can, he should become an elite scorer and playmaker, likely resulting in him becoming the centerpiece of a true contender.