it’s part of us NBA Draft Prospect Review Series We evaluate the top players in the 2022 NBA draft by reviewing every shot, assist, turnover, steal and rebound of their most recent college season. Each writer has access to gameplay footage and is asked to convey their views on the player in any way they see fit.
It felt like the Detroit Pistons had run out of luck.
After winning the NBA Draft Lottery last year and securing the right to select Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick, this year’s lottery brings a new level of excitement. Collectively, we thought, “They finally did it last year, why can’t it happen again?”
Because good things don’t come in pairs for the Pistons.
Detroit drops two places to No. 5, and the focus is on which of Jabari Smith Jr., Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero is best for what do we do now?Keegan Murray is other Big man in this draft.
He was the best one in college last season, but he’s the one that fans have the most doubts about the June draft. Here’s a deep dive into what makes Murray one of the most interesting players in this draft.
He’s what the old man called a “professional” scorer
Murray’s numbers tell the story.
He’s a Pacers who averaged 23.5 points per game last season on 55/40/75 shooting for the Hawkeyes. Yes, we’ve seen Iowa players (see: Garza, Luka) throw a lot of money into Fran McCaffery’s system…but Murray is different.
He is not as big and bulky as Garza. There’s no comparison other than both filling it in Iowa. Murray has strong instincts on offense and knows how to get where he needs to be on the court.
When you watch him, he rarely moves.
When he puts the ball low, he does it in his place.
When he catches the ball at the 3-point line, he ready to shoot.
That’s basketball IQ, and that awareness affects his ability to take advantage of what the defense gives him.
Murray has not been the only focus of opposing defenses this season.
He was underwhelming early in the season against Iowa State (4-for-17 shooting), and his three-game losing streak in four games in January (15.7 points per game on 19-for-54 shooting) wasn’t perfect, either. But Murray was as steady as they were along the way.
A big reason is his versatility. Neither a guard nor a diminutive big man can match the smaller defenders. He finds ways to get the ball near the rim, a skill that could come in handy when defenders switch screens and roll between him and Cade Cunningham.
When Murray scores, he has a purpose. His athleticism has been questioned by some, but he’s not stiff. He has touch around the rim and has enough bounce to get up and finish above the rim with authority.
He’s a lob threat whose athleticism is more practical than explosive.
That helps draw fouls, combined with his crafty ability in the post, allowing him to slide through the open to get a good look at the rim. He rarely loses control when he gets closer to the rim, thanks to his body control and improved strength and conditioning. He doesn’t dance. He doesn’t dribble too much, he just attacks when he gets the ball.
It’s not really a “trick,” but Murray also worked hard. He’s always the first to come off because he runs so hard. His motor is always on, and he’s not afraid to rebound and push the ball up the court. For some people, this is not a good thing. For Murray, that’s true.
But that brings us to some of the downsides that come with his excellent offensive ability.
Murray is a decent ball handler for a big man, but he’s not creative with the ball. He was caught at the bottom line with his head down. Sometimes, it’s because his teammates are watching, but sometimes he dribbles straight into the double-team. Ball handling is great when he’s attacking decisively, but it falls off when he’s probing and looking to create something other than a shot for himself.
He also needs to create better creativity at the high post. He struggles with his mid-range jumper, not because he can’t shoot, but because his shot selection can be poor when he has the ball in that area.
For better or worse, Murray wasn’t born in Carmelo Anthony’s arsenal of jabs, jabs, fakes, jabs, pull-ups. His shot chart tells a similar story:
I think when Murray has the ball, those midrange struggles are also a bit like Murray’s charge. He knows he’s getting defensive attention from 360 degrees at this point, so he rushes to shoot. The same problem arose with his passing. He has the ability to do great reads and find people, but he doesn’t always make those plays in the mid/low post.
Once again, Iowa made a lot of observations when Murray got the ball. Except for Hamidou Diallo, every member of the Pistons probably feels guilty about it. Murray doesn’t waste time when he gets the ball. He won’t be able to attack consistently at the next level, so he needs to improve his secondary reading.
Not the best, but far from the worst
When I started digging into Murray, I expected his defense to be a disaster. I think he’ll be slow and won’t be able to keep up with bigger, more athletic players.
However, I am pleasantly surprised by his performance this season.
He’s not the fastest defender, but he’s smart. He knew where to go. While his 1.9 blocks per game stands out, he’s not a support demon like Chet Holmgren. His movement is good enough that when defenders get to the rim, he can shoot. It’s not easy to have more athletic opponents in the NBA, but Murray knows how to make shooting difficult.
His length is…good. He is 6-foot-8 with a reported 6-foot-11 wingspan. That’s not the real Troy Weaver archetype, but I think he played smart enough to help him on the defensive end.
There’s not a lot of records about him switching in the pick-and-roll. This will be his biggest test in the NBA. He’s a mismatch on offense in that regard, but is he quick enough (or strong enough?) to handle those switch-up games?
Think of it this way: The Pistons and Hornets will face off next season. Miles Bridges sets cover for LaMelo Ball, forcing Killian Hayes to switch to Bridges and Murray to handle Ball on the switch on top of the key. Did Ball have Murray on skates, blowing a bucket from him? Was Murray forced to give up too much space, resulting in a three-match vacancy?
Unfortunately, these situations don’t get much attention in college basketball. Murray, who weighs about 215 pounds this year, has been thin since high school. With a professional training regimen and diet, is his next team looking to make him stronger to handle NBA power forwards better, or is the goal to improve his agility so he can better match Defender cooperation?
It will be interesting to see what direction will happen. You need switchable twitch athletes. Murray is an athlete, but is he athletic enough?
Another thing that really stood out to me was the rebound. This has been the easiest skill to transfer from college to the NBA. As a defensive rebounder, Murray has a keen eye for the ball. He’s not that good on the offensive glass, but that’s probably a byproduct of staying away from the rim.
I’m sure Murray will help you become a rebounder right away…that’s one area where the Pistons were terrible last season.
Is 21 too old for him?
What’s the main criticism you’ve heard about Murray? his age.
When he was just finishing his sophomore year at Iowa State, he played a year of grad school at Florida State after high school — and he’ll be 21 on draft night. They say age is just a number and I tend to agree.But… this gives a lot of fans stopped.
I’m not sure it should really worry you that much.
I went back to 2005 — the first year of the league’s one-and-done rule — and looked at every top-10 pick who turned 21 on draft night. Fifteen individuals met this requirement, 13 of whom went on to have objectively successful careers:
This is no A bad list.
Jordan Hill and Willie Cauley-Stein have two bums, then Raymond Felton, Corey Brewer and Terrence Ross, all low-end starters/roles for playoff teams.
Then, in the remaining nine, we have high-end starters like Mikal Bridges and Victor Oladipo, or players like Brandon Roy, CJ McCollum, Ken Team pillars like Bar Walker, Deron Williams, Al Horford, Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry.
I’m not saying Murray is the next Al Horford, but if he has that kind of influence, I wouldn’t be shocked once that’s all said and done. The point is, age is a factor, but it shouldn’t be an automatic disqualification for a prospect.
He’s a safe bet but has room to grow
Over the next few weeks, Murray will be a polarizing player.
Some will support his choice because they think he is a safe bet. Others will yell for him to be drafted because they see a low ceiling player putting up inflated numbers against a low post Big Ten player.
I’m not sure I fall into that range.
Do I think Murray will grow into a superstar? Do not. However, I don’t see him fail at this level either. I think he’s been a starter since Day 1, that kind of hybrid forward that can carry the load for a while, but is better when the defense’s sole focus isn’t him.
Carrying such a heavy load last season, having a high-level playmaker like Cunningham would make Murray a lot easier to adjust to the NBA.
It’s not a playing style comparison, but Murray’s situation reminds me of Tyrese Haliburton two years ago. Obviously, they’re completely different players at different positions, but they’re all looking at seniors with high floors and low ceilings through the same lens.
Both are high-quality and hard-working players, but it’s hard to shake the stigma of impressive athleticism measurable not being a shiny set-and-forget prospect.
There are concerns that Haliburton won’t be able to bring what he did at Iowa State to the NBA against bigger and better competition. They, including Troy Weaver, were wrong. Through two seasons, Haliburton has become one of the league’s young darlings.
I think it’s a similar situation with Murray. He is ready to contribute today.
The big question is how much better Can he get it? Watching his videos over the past few weeks, I thought of a lot of player comparisons. At times, he looks like Pascal Siakam with legitimate 3-point range. Other times, I see a less resilient John Collins.
And, let’s be honest, sometimes he’s as cunning as Danilo Gallinari.
That’s a big difference, I know, but it shows that Murray’s bottom line is high. He will help your team win. He’d be a nice guy in the locker room.
There is a sense of urgency to this choice. Detroit is improving. They have their future star at Cade. Now, they need another. Falling into the draft added to fans’ desperation for a second star.
That guy is (probably) not a free agent, and they don’t have a future pick to trade him, so it has to come from the draft. I don’t know if Murray is going to be the Robin of Cade’s Batman, but if he does at No. 5, I think Troy Weaver would seriously consider drafting him.
Murray isn’t one to get shot in the playoffs. He has the ability to fight in big lineups and slide to center and spread out on the floor as a five-man small ball.
The Pistons won’t get one of the Big Three in Jabari, Chet or Paul, but sitting at No. 5, they have the potential to get the second best thing in Keegan.