Dejounte Murray is the lone San Antonio Spurs player to be featured (so far)... at #83
Dejounte Murray is one of my personal favorite players for the Spurs and, in that way, I recognize that I am far from being his least biased observer. However, I am having a tremendously difficult time understanding ESPN's reasoning as to why Murray received the exact same ranking that he did in their rankings from 2020.
The only ounce of credit that ESPN deserves with this decision is that they decided against unjustifiably demoting him as they did this past season (going from #71 in 2019 to #83 in 2020). Beyond that, having Murray rank this low is questionable at best.
Ignoring the fact that he has managed to statistically improve some aspect of his game every year--even after tearing his ACL and sitting out an entire season--what may be most troubling about ESPN's rankings is who comes in above Murray on the list.
The following names are just a few of the players who rank above Murray, according to ESPN: Lauri Markkanen, Andrew Wiggins, Cade Cunningham (yes, the rookie), Joe Harris, Tyrese Haliburton, and Aaron Gordon.
I, like many of you, am a fan of several of these players. I have no pleasure in arguing why any of them should be ranked lower on this list, but I could go into in-depth analyses as to why each of these players deserves to be ranked lower than Murray.
To keep it short, though, both Markkanen and Gordon have debatably gotten much worse over the past couple of seasons. Wiggins, while having one of his best seasons in the league this past year, comes at a much higher price and is nearly a year and a half older than Murray. Harris, while a fantastic shooter, was more or less of a nonfactor in the majority of the 2021 playoffs. Although Haliburton was very clearly a standout rookie this past year, the Kings will be returning with an even more overloaded backcourt and he will need to have staying power to justify his ranking.
The addition of Cunningham (or any rookie, for that matter) on this list is lazy, grossly hyperbolic, and laughably premature, making it precisely the type of clickbait content I would expect out of ESPN. Whether or not Cunningham is better than Murray at this point is irrelevant given that he has yet to play even a single NBA game.
Ultimately, even with Murray consistently improving his game, ESPN found it reasonable to rank less-deserving players higher on their list and offer virtually no explanation as to why he remains at #83. While such analysis should probably be expected from ESPN at this point, it's disappointing nonetheless.