Heading into the 2022 NBA Draft, Keegan Murray seemed to be the player that nobody wanted, or at least the draft “experts”. Possessing the fourth pick in the draft, of which the top three players were essentially a given, the Sacramento Kings appeared to be in the position of either trading the pick for a player who could help right away or drafting point guard Jaden Ivey and figuring out how they would deal with having three point guards on the roster at a later time.
Obviously smarter heads prevailed and the Kings selected the Iowa Hawkeye power forward, who will likely slide right into the starting rotation alongside Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, newly acquired Kevin Huerter, and De’Aaron Fox.
It’s important to remember that Keegan has a brother, Kris, that will play this season once again for the Iowa Basketball Hawkeyes, and will probably be a name to look for in next year’s draft.
Seeing DOUBLE 👀
Kris & Keegan Murray ✌️#NBADraft presented by State Farm pic.twitter.com/dV7cFaopHP
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) June 24, 2022
So, what can the Kings expect from Keegan Murray? Let’s find out.
A Glimpse Of Hope To The Kings
While the Kings have notoriously screwed up previous drafts, selecting Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic, Thomas Robinson over Damian Lillard, Jimmer Fredette over Klay Thompson, Marquese Chriss over Sabonis, and Willie Cauley-Stein over Devin Booker in recent years (yes we are contradicting ourselves here, noting that positional needs sometimes supersede, but at some point, talent takes precedence, especially when three of the five are franchise players), Sacramento’s front office may have actually made the right selection this time around.
At twenty-one years old, Murray is the second oldest player selected in the lottery portion of the draft (Ochai Agbaji of the Cleveland Cavaliers is older by four months) and in a five-way tie for the most experienced as a sophomore.
While the NBA is fast becoming a young man’s game, Murray still has a high ceiling and room to improve his game. As one of the top two-way players in the draft, Murray averages 23.5 points per game and 8.7 rebounds, while being able to play multiple positions on both ends of the court provides the Kings with a potential third pillar to build around.
Kings Sign Keegan Murray
📝⏩ https://t.co/nhFM1eEqCp pic.twitter.com/aIHyEtfdod
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) July 2, 2022
Performance In Summer League
After playing three games in the California Classic Summer League in which he posted an average of 19.7 points, 8 rebounds and 1.3 steals, Murray took a trip with the Kings to Las Vegas where he played the most games of any lottery pick and captured the MVP with an average of 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2 assists, shooting 50% from the field and 40% from downtown.
While summer leagues are full of rookies, sophomores, and free agent hopefuls and a far cry from the battles that Murray will face as a starting power forward in the NBA, the sample size gives the Kings and their fans a taste of what the Iowa native has to offer.
Keegan Murray in Summer League (5 games):
— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 10, 2022
As a rookie, Murray, while impressive during summer league, still has plenty to learn about the NBA game. However, unlike Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith Jr. Murray doesn’t have the weight of a franchise on his shoulders. Unlike summer league in which he dropped 20 points and 10 boards on the Orlando Magic or when he outbattled Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder, running off a stat line of 29 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals, there will undoubtedly be nights in which the rookie has his share of struggles this coming season.
“He’s been quietly amazing,” Marc Spears told Brian Windhorst on an episode of “The Hoop Collective”. “He doesn’t play like Tim Duncan, but he carries himself like Tim Duncan. Quiet demeanor. Just plays. There’s nothing that’s really loud about his game. He’s not really dunking on people, not really flashy. It’s very fundamental.” Considering that Duncan is arguably one of the top ten players of all time, that’s not a bad first compliment and comparison.
Keegan Murray wins Summer League MVP 👏
▪️ 23.3 PPG
▪️ 7.3 RPG
▪️ 2.0 AST pic.twitter.com/2eMk9bYFaj
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 18, 2022
Can Keegan Murray Cement His Place In The NBA?
It’s been seventeen long years since the Sacramento Kings advanced to the postseason. It’s also been seventeen years since the Kings had a winning record. Last season the team finished 30-52, twelfth overall in the Western Conference, and four games out of a play-in tournament berth.
With the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, and Portland Trailblazers all returning to full health along with a revamped Minnesota Timberwolves roster and a motivated LeBron James-led Lakers, it appears as though the Kings’ streak of futility will extend to the eighteenth season.
While the Kings will likely be on the outside of the playoffs looking in, the sample size from summer league of what the 6’8”, 225lb forward has to offer has placed Murray third in the early season betting odds for the 2022-23 NBA Rookie of the Year according to Fanduel Sportsbook.
So what should fans expect from their Rookie of the Year candidate? Should he start right away, Murray would likely be the fourth scoring option on the floor but should pick up some easy baskets as opposing teams focus on Fox, Sabonis, and Barnes.
It is not far-fetched to expect a season-ending stat line of 31mpg, 15ppg, 7rpg, 2apg, 46%FG, 35%3PT. If Murray can hit those numbers and Sacramento can sneak into the playoffs or at least the play-in tournament, the Kings’ first-year forward can add another piece of hardware to his trophy collection.
Credits for Featured Image: Alexander Jonesi, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons