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NBA

Who is Keegan Murray, the Kings rookie named NBA Summer League MVP?

The no. 4 pick in the NBA Draft, Keegan Murray, has started his career with the Kings scoring buckets, winning games and being named Summer League MVP.

Update:
Jul 5, 2022; San Francisco, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray (13) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers guards Javante McCoy (46) and Scotty Pippen Jr. (1) during the third quarter at the California Summer League at Chase Center Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Darren YamashitaUSA TODAY Sports

The NBA 2K23 Summer League has its latest MVP in Keegan Murray, the 21-year-old power forward the Sacramento Kings selected with the fourth pick in last month’s Draft. He was somewhat of a controversial pick as most analysts and mock drafts had PG Jaden Ivey (no.5 to the Pistons) and even SG Shaedon Sharpe (no.7 to the Blazers) as more enticing prospects for the rebuilding Kings, but Murray has started to prove them wrong as early as he could.

Where does Keegan Murray come from?

Keegan Murray will be 22 in August, the same age as most college seniors picked in this year’s draft, but he only played two seasons in Iowa, making his path to the NBA an unusual one. He averaged 20.3 points and 7.2 rebounds during his last year at Prairie High School in Iowa, but instead of accepting the offers from low-division colleges he may have had, Murray decided to spend a season at DME Academy, a postgraduate academy in Florida in which he generated enough buzz to become a three-star recruit and earn a spot at Iowa, his local college.

During his first season in Iowa in 2021 he averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds per game, enough to earn him All-Freshman honors and a more prominent role the next year. As a sophomore, Murray became the star of his team and averaged 23.5 points per game and 8.7 rebounds with great efficiency, with 39.8 3P% and 61.4 eFG%. His play earned him a spot in the All-American first team in 2022 and got the word going on him as a potential lottery player in the draft, to which he committed on March 29th.

How does Murray play?

Keegan Murray is an all-around scorer with size and versatility both in offense and defense. His scoring is efficient at every level and can play both on and off-ball, which led him to become the only player in college history to record 60 dunks and 60 three-points made in the same season. He has already shown his scoring burst ability by carrying the Kings to an OT against Banchero and the Magic when it seemed impossible last week.

Murray’s a volume shooter from outside the arc who can punish mismatches and score near the rim as either the roll-man or off screens. He will need to show that his physicality and craft can translate to the highest level, as NBA defenders will be tougher than anything he has ever had in front of him and they will adjust to his drop steps and turnarounds. If his shotmaking does not prove to be fluky and he becomes a threat when moving without the ball in his hands, he should have an easier time cutting to the basket and getting to the rim. If Keegan Murray can live up to his comparisons, such as Pascal Siakam and Jerami Grant, the Kings will be happy with their pick no matter what Ivey or Sharpe become.

His performance in the Summer League did not offer anything new from Murray, but it showed the clear difference between players who are still finding their footing and how to play the game and the seasoned college-vets who know how to score and make winning-plays. That’s the category Murray falls in right now, as he may not have the ceiling of Holmgren or Ivey due to his lack of ball-handling ability and creativity, but his presence on the court should be positive for the Kings from the first minute he plays.

What to expect of him and the Kings

“We getting forty wins this year, let’s go!”, a chant that represents the Kings fans and their franchise more than any other ever could, as that would still be a losing record. Sacramento is the team with most consecutive seasons missing the NBA playoffs with 16. If the Seattle Mariners of MLB make the playoffs for the first time in over two decades as they are poised to do this season, the Kings will become the team whose playoff presence is most removed in all American major leagues. So, their fans needed hope, and Murray gave it to them with his Summer League performances.

Keegan Murray was not one of the most coveted three players in the draft, those being Banchero, Holmgren and Smith, and he’s not a dynamic guard such as Ivey, but he can be the piece the Kings need to take a much-awaited step forward. The team can play small-ball with him at center when Sabonis and Holmes are resting, but his most prominent role will be as a four who can switch in defense and stay in front of his assignment as a strong on-ball defender.

A starting five of De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray and Domantas Sabonis should have more than enough scoring potential and defensive size to not be run out of the court by any team. If Fox and Sabonis keep developing their play together and Murray spreads the floor as a capable third or fourth scoring option, the Kings should be closer to the playoffs than they have been in a few years.

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