What Dejounte Murray needs to do to improve in his third season

The 2017-18 seasons was full of ups and downs for the young point guard. He was never a consistent starter with as Tony Parker and Patty Mills were a times chosen ahead of the budding 21 year-old. Murray was eventually able to secure a spot as the Spurs’ starting point guard after Parker made way for the rising Seattle talent. He held down his spot as a starter for the rest of the year and had a good run of games towards the second half of the season. With Parker now gone, Murray will be the starting point guard for the coming season – his first full one on the job. Now that Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Kyle Anderson are all gone, Murray holds the keys to the franchise. While he has showed that he has the tools to become a quality point guard in the modern NBA, Murray does have plenty of areas to improve on/work towards with the added responsibility that now rests on his shoulders.

He started a total of 48 game this season and averaged a shade under 22 minutes a game and earned a spot on the All-Defense Second Team last season. Not only did Murray rack up 1.2 steals per game, he was ranked above all point guards in terms of Real Defensive Plus-Minus. Murray also put up a 101 defensive rating which was representative of his excellent perimeter defense. Pop’s new on-the-floor general has one other stat that shows how exceptional of a player he can be. The 6-foot-5 point guard has shown the ability to dominate the glass, averaging 5.7 rebounds last season. That is quite remarkable for a player who is not expected to work the glass. His combination of height and wingspan (nearly 7 feet long) is perfect for the modern basketball guard, who is expected to switch on defense and guard multiple positions. With an increased role and game time, this will certainly come to fruition. As his NBA tenure continues, he can only get better for here. That definitely means that he will rack up more and more All-Defense spot. He should to break into the First Defensive team and make a name for himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Though, given the caliber of players on last season’s first team, it will be tough list to crack. Not to mention if Kawhi is healthy, he will certainly add to the potential list of players who have the chance on cracking the team. He is only 21 and the sky is the limit for how good of a defensive player he can be. Hopefully, another defensive award is in his sights next season.

Last season, he averaged 21.5 minutes a game. That is a solid number of minutes for a player who is still trying to make his name in a playoff bound team. That number fluctuated during the first half of the season and he was pulled in and out of the starting lineup. His on court time was even limited in during the month of December when he had to compete for playing team against Patty Mills and a healthy Tony Parker who had just recovered from tearing his quadriceps tendon. Once Murray became the undisputed starter in January, his minutes on the court went up where he averaged 27 minutes per game. His game time will vary next season as Pop likes to tinker and experiment with his lineups, as well as forcing his players to rest for parts of the regular season. Aiming to the 30 minute mark may seem like a stretch though San Antonio may need him on the floor for as long as possible given that he will be their best perimeter defender now that Kawhi and Danny Green are now with the Raptors. A high dose of minutes will be representative of the growing trust that the Spurs organization have in Murray. Anything higher will also be unlucky as Popovich is known to be patient with youth products, easing their way into taking the burdens of the franchise. Increased minutes will almost definitely mean higher averages across the park. How far ahead will he get in year three? Are double-digit averages in his future?

This is probably the only glaring downside to Murray’s game. He made less than 27% of his attempts from beyond the arc last year. He averaged a shot every two games from beyond the arc. As the league continues to move ahead into the era of high-volume three point shooting, it weeds out guards who simply spread the floor. Murray is already an excellent perimeter defender. There’s no doubt about his ability to force players into making rash decisions from beyond the arc. This was a major question that surrounded him when he was drafted late in the first round two years ago. Despite his less-than-average three point shooting, he did surprise everyone during the playoffs; making 4 out of 6 attempts from beyond the arc in the Spurs’ sole playoff win against the Warriors. Like every player in the league, Murray has likes to show him his improved shooting in various social media posts throughout the summer. Shooting an empty gym means nothing when the real test will come against an NBA defense. Should he receive a green light to freely take shots from beyond the arc, it will be a sign that the issues with his jump shot have been alleviated. It will also give the Spurs the much needed floor spacing they need with LeMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan specializing in the tough-twos department. Above 30% from three with 2 or more attempts a game would show positive improvement on Murray’s part. Game-to-game consistency on his outside shot will go a long way toward his confidence as starting NBA point guard and disavow the notion that he does not have the offensive skillset to thrive in the league.   

 

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