Taken with the 29th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, Dejounte Murray was chosen with the hopes of him developing into the San Antonio Spurs point guard of the future. In his rookie season, he broke Tony Parker’s record for youngest player in Spurs history to score 24 points. He followed up that impressive feat the following season by becoming the youngest player in NBA history to make the All-Defensive Team.
Unfortunately, during preseason last year, Murray suffered a season-ending ACL injury. As he rehabbed, videos on social media started making the rounds of his improved shooting. The Spurs were happy enough with his progress to ink him to a four-year, $64 million extension before the start of the regular season.
Murray was on fire to start the season, averaging 14.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists in only 23.3 minutes per game in his first five outings of the year. At the time, Spurs fans everywhere had high hopes for Murray and considered him a potential future All-Star. Since then, unfortunately, it hasn’t been a smooth ride.
The Highs and Lows for Dejounte Murray
Despite a fantastic start to the season, Murray has struggled to maintain any type of consistency. He had a solid October but proceeded to have his worst month of the season in November.
Murray really struggled shooting the ball in November, hitting just 44.3% of his shots from the field and 18.8% of his three-pointers. During this time, he just didn’t have the same amount of confidence in his jumper that he had coming into the season.
However, in December, Murray bounced back nicely and posted his best assist numbers. This is important to note as Murray has been a disappointment when it comes to playmaking. He has trouble making the right pass and and he doesn’t read the defense as well as he should.
Murray doesn’t look like he is able to run the offense the way a point guard should, and his shooting isn’t good enough to move him to the shooting guard position. He’s young and should continue to improve but, at this stage of the season, Murray has been underwhelming, with flashes of brilliance here and there.
Starting Role vs. Bench Role
Back in November, head coach Gregg Popovich tweaked the Spurs starting lineup and swapped Murray out for Derrick White. Pop’s reasoning was likely that White spaces the floor much better than Murray and is also a strong defender.
However, for Murray, the move to bench really hurt his numbers. He only managed eight games before being inserted back into the starting lineup.
His offensive rating nosedived from 107 as a starter to a dismal 91 as a bench player. While the Spurs inserted White to help with spacing issues, Murray had very little room to operate as a reserve, with Jakob Poeltl in the paint and Marco Belinelli and Rudy Gay both struggling with their shot from the perimeter.
When Dejounte Murray Plays Well, So Do the Spurs
The splits for Murray when it comes to wins and losses is very noticeable. His impact can’t be understated, as he and DeMar DeRozan are arguably the two best players on the team at driving to the basket to draw in opposing defenders.
When Murray’s outside shot is falling and he’s playing stellar defense, the Spurs become a different animal. His skillset covers a lot of flaws in the Spurs roster. If he can play at his best more consistently, that alone would greatly improve San Antonio’s playoff hopes.
It is imperative that Murray maintains his aggression. His quarter by quarter splits show that he is actually quite a solid fourth quarter shooter. It’s a shame that he takes less shots in the second half, as the numbers suggest that the Spurs crunch time issues may be remedied with a more engaged and involved Murray down the stretch of games.
The Spurs face a daunting Rodeo Road Trip and will need everyone to play well if they want to come out of it relatively unscathed. Murray having more performances like he did against the Utah Jazz would go a long way toward helping the Spurs lock down the eighth seed in the Western Conference.