San Antonio Spurs: Murray's path to being an NBA All-Star
By Cal Durrett
After an impressive 2020-21 season, San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray appears to be on the brink of stardom. Murray managed to elevate his game despite a shortened offseason and with rotations constantly in flux due to injuries and COVID-19 related absences.
Despite all obstacles, Dejounte averaged 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.5 steals, emerging as the Spurs' second-best player. With DeMar DeRozan possibly leaving in free agency, Murray could very well be the best player on the team next season.
After all, Dejounte has already developed into a well-rounded player who's an above-average rebounder for his position, an elite defender, and a rapidly improving playmaker. That being said, he still has plenty of room to grow, particularly as a scorer, which is the biggest obstacle in the path to becoming an NBA All-Star.
Dejounte must be more aggressive in getting to the line
One area Dejounte could stand to improve involves free throws. For a player with a relatively high usage rate of 23.4 percent, Murray doesn't get to the free throw line very often. Actually, Murray attempted just 2.0 free throws a game, tied for 4th on the team this season, despite playing 31.9 minutes per game.
To become an All-Star, he’ll need to make a concerted effort to get to the line more. Part of the issue appears to be his shot selection. 59.8 percent of his shot attempts were taken at least ten feet away from the basket. Additionally, a large portion of his shots taken within ten feet was either in transition or floaters, suggesting that those shots were either uncontested or lightly contested.
With the ball potentially in his hands more, next season, Dejounte should look to attack the basket more and work on drawing contact. Getting to the line is a skill in and of itself, and is a necessary one for Murray to master in order to make a significant jump in scoring. After all, of the 43 players who averaged at least 20 points per game this season, 30 of them attempted at least five free throws per game.
The Continued development of his outside shot
The other area in which Murray would need to improve involves his 3-point shooting. Murray’s jumper has come a long way in a relatively short time, which is evident in his mid-range shooting. Murray attempted 5.7 shots per game from 16-24 feet this season, hitting an impressive 46.4 percent. That said, he hasn't shot it quite as well from beyond the arc.
Dejounte connected on just 31.7 percent of his 3-point attempts per game this season. Going forward, Murray must improve his shooting percentage while also becoming a high-volume 3-point shooter to become an All-Star-caliber player. That's obviously easier said than done, though Murray has shown a strong work ethic so it's not out of the realm of possibility.
The Chances Dejounte makes the big leap
Even with the necessary tweaks to his game, there are still elements out of his control in regards to becoming an All-Star. Due to stiff competition in the Western Conference, it would appear unlikely that Dejounte would be voted in as an All-Star starter in the near future.
Fortunately, at just 24, Murray is significantly younger than four of this year's West All-Star guards. Furthermore, Dejounte could enter his prime with slightly less competition for a spot on the traditionally highly competitive West All-Star team. However, he’ll have to earn the approval of other conference head coaches who make the reserve selections.
After all, with the recent offensive explosion league-wide, the bar for being selected may steadily rise. DeMar DeRozan, for example, wasn't selected this season despite averaging 21.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists.
There’s the outside possibility that the All-Star rosters will eventually expand from twelve to fifteen players. This change would allow the All-Star rosters to finally reflect the changes made to the maximum roster limits for individual teams. Additionally, it would also allow for more players to be selected and recognized, many of whom are equally deserving but often just miss the cut.
Barring that, however, Dejounte will need to significantly elevate his offensive play to receive consideration or else risk never becoming an All-Star. There are certainly worse career outcomes for Murray than never becoming an All-Star. Dejounte could still develop into a great player.
Whether he ultimately becomes one or not is obviously is yet to be determined. That said, given how much he's already improved and how hard he continues to work, it's hard to put a limit on Murray's ceiling.