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The Keegan Murray Dilemma
Keegan Murray will be one of the first players taken in the 2022 NBA Draft. The Sacramento Kings hold the fourth pick and Keegan could be a fit, so Nick and Rucker discussed the Keegan Murray dilemma.
Keegan Murray entered last season as an intriguing prospect, but not as one near the top of any draft boards. Then, he started the season on a scorching-hot run that turned plenty of heads.
Some expected him to slow down a bit in conference play. Keegan Murray did not do that. He continued to dominate his competition the entire season, showcasing a much-improved three-point shot and an excellent all-around game.
By the end of the season for Iowa, Keegan Murray proved himself as a clear lottery pick for the 2022 NBA Draft. The main question for Murray at this point is where he ends up being selected in the lottery.
The Sacramento Kings have the fourth pick in the draft. With the big man trio of Jabari Smith Jr., Chet Holmgren, and Paolo Banchero likely to go with the first three picks, Keegan Murray is one of the key candidates in consideration for the Kings with the fourth overall pick. With that draft setup in mind, Tyler Rucker and Nick Agar-Johnson debate the Keegan Murray dilemma for the Kings near the top of the draft.
Nick: I have a feeling that you might have a few things you might want to talk about when it comes to Keegan Murray, Rucker. I’m curious to hear your case in full, though. What are your thoughts on the Sacramento Kings potentially considering Keegan Murray with the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft?
Rucker: You came to the right place, Nick. So yes, let’s dance and have the Keegan Murray talk. When it comes to the talented Iowa Hawkeyes sophomore as a prospect, Murray has a lot of intriguing parts of his game. He was one of the most impressive players in the country, demonstrating his ability to be a force on both sides of the floor on a nightly basis. As a freshman, Murray showcased some intriguing upside while playing alongside former college basketball star and current Detroit Pistons big man Luka Garza. The next year, Murray took his game to another platform of awesomeness. So why are fans and evaluators still questioning his talent?
When it comes to Murray’s potential fit as a new member of the Sacramento Kings, it makes a lot more sense than people might realize. On the one hand, the Kings need to find themselves some players with serious upside. More importantly, the Kings also need to find players who are going to buy into any role that is asked and help this organization push the needle forward. Some might question the fit with Murray playing alongside Domantas Sabonis, but the fact is that Keegan Murray is a winner. The Kings need to continue to develop their culture. Murray would punch the clock every night and do anything to get the team back towards playoff contention.
Alright, Nick, now that I got that “appetizer” out of my system…what are your thoughts about Keegan Murray as a prospect overall? If we are just talking about him overall as a player, are you buying into him being able to thrive with any potential spot in the Top 5? Do you think his fit with the Sacramento Kings is stronger than some might believe?
Nick: I’m going to start with the last question because that’s the one that I’ve been thinking about the most over the past few weeks. This is maybe the most intriguing debate about fit vs. best player available that I can remember–especially when talking about the fourth overall pick.
I think that Keegan Murray’s fit in Sacramento is close to picture-perfect. He and Harrison Barnes make a ton of sense as a forward combo. Barnes has developed into a vet’s vet over the past few years with the Kings, and he and Murray complement each other well as excellent three-point shooting forwards who can switch between covers on a nightly basis. Barnes has the size and strength to take the tougher defensive assignment, but Murray is no slouch on the defensive end and should be able to get up to speed quickly.
The question that I’ve gone back and forth about approximately 753 times since lottery night is this: Jaden Ivey or Keegan Murray? I have Ivey higher on my personal board, but after the Tyrese Haliburton trade last season, I’m worried that the Kings won’t want to bring another young guard into the fold. To be clear, Ivey is much more of an off-ball player than either Haliburton or Davion Mitchell, which alleviates the fit concerns; it might be a small backcourt with Mitchell, Fox, and Ivey, but Ivey’s upside might be worth the swing. At this point, I’m leaning towards the Kings taking Ivey (assuming he’s still on the board). However, every time I re-watch Murray’s film or talk about him with you, I change my mind again–we’ll definitely hit at least 754 times of me changing my mind before we wrap up this piece.
Shifting from the Kings back to Keegan–I think that he’s the kind of prospect who can fit into virtually any environment. He really blossomed as a scorer and three-point threat this past season, but there’s every reason to believe that he’ll be able to fill a role at the NBA level sooner rather than later. Murray might be the least likely to make an All-Star game of any of the players in my personal Top 5 (Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Ivey, Jabari Smith Jr., and Murray, for the record), but he might have the highest floor with the possible exception of Jabari Smith.
Plus, after Keegan’s breakout scoring season this past year, I’m not willing to put a cap on his potential. He was ridiculously effective from two-point range for the second straight season, his three-point shooting jumped immensely, and he grew quite a bit as a playmaker. If he continues to develop on the same trajectory he showed in his two college seasons, then an All-Star berth or two is definitely not out of the question. What about you, Rucker? Do you think that Murray might have All-Star or even All-NBA upside?
Rucker: See, that’s the thing that might make me a little weird and crazy when it comes to Keegan Murray. Apparently, I’m the only one that is still buying the upside even though he’s apparently old enough to be a dinosaur. The rapid jump in improvement over the course of one season should be enough to make basketball fans understand that Murray has plenty of game left to unlock. I absolutely could see Keegan Murray being an All-Star from this Draft class. An important thing to realize with the “underdogs” or players that weren’t highly recruited is that chip on their shoulder is only going to continue to build real estate. Murray has been characterized as a sensational player on and off the court, someone who is a relentless worker and just wants to do anything to win. That type of mentality should be something that gives him the potential to become a weapon early on in his career.
Murray is boring. That’s why people are so confused by his awesomeness. He’s a guy that takes the ball on the wing, backs you down until you feel like you just took three shots of NyQuil, hits you with a couple of shoulder fakes, and throws up a soft baby hook for two points. The problem is that he does that over and over again, before eventually running off a pin down for a catch-and-shoot three. The dude is a monster, and I’m convinced we are just starting to overthink this one.
Nick. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills like Mugatu at the end of Zoolander. Do you think the idea that Keegan Murray doesn’t have that much upside is ridiculous? Could you see a world where he becomes one of the best players in the Top 10?
Nick: See, here’s the thing with the “does Keegan Murray still have upside?” question. I also think it’s ridiculous. Why do we assume players stop developing after the age of 20? Is it like nobody has ever added anything to their game after the moment they’re no longer a teenager? LeBron James developed a much better post game in his late 20s, and it unlocked another level to his offensive game. If the best player in the world at that moment in time could add something that made him an even better player after years in the NBA, why is a 21-year-old heading into the draft (or even a slightly older prospect) seen as a finished product and a 19-year-old is not?
It seems crazy to me as well, especially since Murray showed such dramatic development between his first and second seasons for the Hawkeyes. He showed growth as a passer in addition to his improved scoring game, and he could still stand to grow more in that regard. He will certainly improve defensively over the course of his career; nearly all rookies are terrible defensively, but I expect Murray to develop into an above-average defender in the NBA.
Another point in favor of the “Murray still has room to develop” agenda there–people seem to generally acknowledge that nearly all rookies struggle with defense as they get adjusted to the NBA game. That applies to 19-year-olds as well as 21-year-olds; wouldn’t it stand to reason that most other aspects of player development would fit that model as well?
Look, I get that it’s easier to project potential for a teenager as opposed to a prospect who’s slightly older and has multiple college/professional seasons under their belt. Still, I think that the “too old” tag is questionable on its face, and it is patently absurd in my mind to assign it to a 21-year-old prospect who has literally already shown the ability to dramatically improve his game between one season and the next during his two seasons at Iowa.
So…yes, I guess that’s a long way of saying that I think there’s a world in which Keegan Murray becomes one of the best players in the Top 10.
I suppose that leads me to another question, which is: do you think that any of the teams ahead of the Kings in the draft should be considering Keegan Murray? I would lean towards no personally, given that I have Keegan fifth on my board, but I know that you’re even higher on Murray than I am. We can discuss the low end of his draft range later, but since we’re both buying his draft stock, let’s get a little crazy and rally the crowd. Would you consider Murray with any of the first three picks, or would you just be looking to draft Keegan starting with the Kings at #4 overall?
Rucker: Yes, Nick, he obviously should be going #1 overall. Okay, I’m not THAT crazy. While I do think that Keegan could be a heck of an addition for any of the teams picking in the Top 3, I do believe that could be a bit rich for some. Look, it’s just the way the NBA Draft goes. When you’re picking up near the top, you’re going to want to find a young player that has a special upside combination of both youth and talent. While Keegan has the talent to be a dangerous weapon at the NBA level, his age will most likely have teams thinking the other way. Do I necessarily agree with that thinking strategy? Not entirely, but I understand the thought process behind it.
Realistically, I would be thinking that a team like Sacramento should be foaming at the mouth to have Keegan Murray on the board at number four. He’s going to be a prospect that most likely interviews well and will have a strong slate of intel when it comes to his background, so some team is going to be drooling when it comes to the idea of adding a player like Murray to their young team. If the Kings want Murray to be their pick at number four, no one is going to call them out for going with one of the top prospects in the draft who might have the highest floor. In so many ways, Nick, it might be the opposite of what the Kings have done over the years (I’m sorry to bring up old stuff; I still believe they will be okay).
If the Kings do decide that they want to go another direction instead of Murray, they will find themselves in one of the hottest trade spots in this year’s draft. The Kings would have the ability to ring the dinner bell and intrigue a number of teams to come up to four in order to target someone like Murray and Jaden Ivey, to mention a few.
Alright, Nick, we’ve talked about this plenty. Now tell me, do you see a realistic world in which Keegan Murray wouldn’t at least turn out to be a great selection near the top of the lottery? Why do I really feel like he could become one of the most underrated transitions in terms of prospects making the leap to the NBA?
Nick: It’s going to be difficult for me to try arguing against Keegan. I think that we agree that his ceiling is underrated (especially given our philosophy on “ceilings” over here), but I also think that he has a really solid floor and one of the smoothest transitions to the NBA. You mentioned the “NyQuil” element to his game, but a boring and effective game makes it really easy to at least have counters when bigger players front him in the post or teams try to force him off the three-point line.
To be honest, the world in which Keegan doesn’t turn out to be a great selection in the top half of the lottery is if pretty much everyone else hits their absolute peak potential. Keegan could be a solid starter for a decade in the NBA and still be a pick that is questioned in hindsight–especially if he goes to the Kings at fourth overall. If Jaden Ivey falls to the Pistons at fifth overall and becomes an All-NBA guy and Keegan doesn’t make at least an All-Star Game or two? I could definitely see people questioning Sacramento’s front office in hindsight.
That being said, I think that the odds of any team selecting Keegan Murray and being unhappy with the pick are very slim. He’s already shown that he’s willing to put in the work and make changes to his game, as displayed between Year One and Year Two for him on the Hawkeyes. I think there’s every reason to believe that whatever team selects him will be very happy with that choice, and every reason to believe that Murray will have one of the smoothest transitions to the NBA of any prospect.
I don’t know, Rucker, I’m still torn. I’m wavering for the 755th time now; I think my ultimate conclusion is that I’d still take Ivey over Murray for the Kings at #4, but it’s hard not to believe in Murray more the more we talk about him. It’s also hard not to feel like the Kings are in a good spot, somehow? It sounds crazy to me to say that the Kings are well-positioned in the draft, even after moving up in the lottery, but I think that the Keegan Murray dilemma at fourth overall is a very good one for the Kings to have. Bring us home here, Rucker, any final thoughts on Keegan Murray or the debate for the Kings about whether or not to make him the choice with the fourth overall pick?
Rucker: I think there’s a realistic chance we all look back and wonder why the “Keegan Murray dilemma” was even a thing. Throughout his second year in college basketball, Murray showed the ability to be a dominant force in a number of different areas on the basketball court. In a Draft class in which so many were convinced that there was a huge “drop” in talent after the Top 3-4 prospects, Murray could be the one that proves us wrong down the road.
Some team is going to get a workhorse. A player who has been an underdog throughout his basketball career and who will continue to do everything in his power to succeed at the next level. I would think that it shouldn’t even be a conversation for a team like the Sacramento Kings with the fourth overall pick. Yes, there’s a chance that a player like Jaden Ivey could become a supreme talent from his position. But there’s also a chance that Murray could become the type of player that can swing the culture of a team who has found themselves buried in Lottery Purgatory for years.