When the Sacramento Kings selected forward Keegan Murray with the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, it came as a surprise to many experts and fans who believed that the team would take Jaden Ivey.
Had the Kings gone with conventional wisdom, they would have once again had a logjam at the point guard position after solving the issue with last February’s trade of Tyrese Haliburton for forward/center, Domantas Sabonis.
We already went into detail on what the new Kings recruit can offer to the team and ClutchBet sportsbook has Keegan as a runner-up in the odds to be Rookie of the Season at +500. He only trails Paolo Banchero from the Orlando Magic, currently priced at +190.
However, following wrist surgery in August, some Kings fans might be worried that it will affect his performance. Let’s find out.
Performance In Summer League
Murray, who spent two years with the Iowa Hawkeye, declared for the 2022 NBA Draft after averaging 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds during his sophomore season. After being an early surprise during draft night, Murray, who became the highest selected Hawkeye since Fred Brown was drafted sixth in 1971, showed the Kings, their fans, and the rest of the NBA that the Sacramento front office may have known what they were doing
In three games at the California Classic, Murray paced the tournament with 19.7 points and finished second in rebounds with 8.0. The “Summer Of Murray” would continue as he captured the Las Vegas Summer League MVP averaging 23.3 points, and 7.3 rebounds while hitting 50 percent of his shots and 40 percent from downtown.
It is also important to mention that Murray has a brother who chose to opt-out of the draft and will play again with the Hawkeyes this season. Though, you better look out for Kris Murray next year!
Keegan Murray in Summer League (6 games):
He has as many 20-point games as Paolo, Chet, Jabari, Ivey and Mathurin combined (5). pic.twitter.com/9DC7BnCk2H
— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 14, 2022
Minor Surgery Concerns Kings Fans
Following his standout summer performance, Murray would undergo what was described as a “minor surgery” on his right wrist to “clean out some loose bodies.” While any surgery is cause for concern, especially at a young age, Murray did his best to put everyone’s mind at ease as he soon returned to the gym, putting up shots with his left hand.
With training camp set to start as soon as September 24th, it doesn’t appear as though there will be any lingering impact when the Kings take the floor.
There is a lot of hope among the Sacramento organization that this will be the season that the Kings end a sixteen-year playoff absence. While other members of the 2022 draft class may be on teams with lower expectations, Murray’s in a slightly unique position for his first season.
Teams like Orlando (Pablo Banchero), Oklahoma City (Chet Holmgren), Houston (Jabari Smith Jr.), and the Detroit Pistons (Ivey) are all on long-term building processes. The Kings (who seem to have been in a forever rebuild) however are built to battle for at least a play-in berth this season.
Murray has been cleared to resume basketball activities after undergoing wrist surgery over the summer. https://t.co/UWhoPMWthK
— Rookie Wire (@RookieWire) September 10, 2022
How Will Keegan Fit In The Kings team?
Led by De”Aaron Fox, Sabonis, and Harrison Barnes, the Kings have three established players to pace their team, while either Kevin Hueter or Malik Monk join Murray as members of the starting unit. While Fox, Sabonis, and Barnes were all part of the 30-52 team that finished twelfth in the Western Conference standings last season and six games out of a play-in berth, the trio only played thirteen games together. As for Hueter and Monk, both are new to the team, coming from the Atlanta Hawks and LA Lakers respectively.
Thanks to his explosive summer showcase, Murray is no longer a secret weapon for the Kings as the young forward has found himself listed among the ESPN Top 100 list this season. Coming in at number 95, ESPN states that “Murray trails only Orlando’s Paolo Banchero as front-runners for Rookie of the Year honors and looks poised to make an immediate impact in the league.” Among the players behind Murray on the list include, Seth Curry, Kevin Love, Mitchell Robinson, Grant Williams, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, three of the four being well-established NBA veterans.
Considering that Murray enters the season at 100 percent and remains relatively healthy throughout his rookie season, what are the expectations for the young forward? Certainly not 23 points, seven points, and knocking down half of his shot attempts as the level of competition in the NBA is far superior to what he faced in Summer League. Yes, Murray will still be able to hit the step-back jumper or pull up off the dribble, but the defense will, without question be tougher, especially as he faces players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson, Pascal Siakam, and Evan Mobley.
Based on this photo the Kings posted yesterday, Keegan Murray is back to full contact after his wrist surgery. pic.twitter.com/07ORksyxsq
— Greg (@gwiss) September 9, 2022
Keegan: Potential Of A Future Star
While he won’t have the ball in his hands as much as Banchero is likely to, Murray should be able to post a similar first-year stat line to that of another member of the Orlando Magic, Franz Wagner, who finished his rookie season averaging 15 points, 4.5 rebounds and a shade under 3 assists. On the defensive side of the floor, Murray’s energy, quick hands, and court awareness will serve him and the Kings well.
Should Murray trot out with the starting five, he should get plenty of touches playing alongside Sabonis and Fox who both averaged more than five assists per game. However, even if he isn’t scoring off those touches, Kings’ head coach Mike Brown has confidence in his potential future star, stating after the second game in the California Classic where Murray came out slightly cold, “Moving the ball, going to set screens, just kept playing in the flow, and I think that’s extremely important for anybody let alone a young guy to be able to understand or feel because sometimes it might not be your night.”
Despite what the “experts” thought should have happened on draft night, the Sacramento Kings appear to have made the right selection for their team, and should they be successful in finally returning to the playoffs, odds are Keegan Murray will play a big hand in making that goal a reality.
Credits on Featured Image: AnonymousUnknown author, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons