Coming into the season, perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the 2019-20 San Antonio Spurs campaign was the return of Dejounte Murray. The rising young point guard was all over social media while rehabbing from his devastating ACL injury last preseason, giving fans plenty to be excited about.
As expected, it’s hard to find any fault in Murray’s effort level and determination to be great on the court every night. Now in his third season with San Antonio, Murray is putting up career numbers in limited minutes as the team looks to preserve its budding star.
With Murray’s minutes restrictions, Gregg Popovich has opted to stagger him and Derrick White, which has undoubtedly played a big role in the Spurs’ slow start defensively. While he’s still putting up decent numbers and doing what he can in 22 minutes per game, Murray is showing some growing pains as well.
Dejounte Murray: The Negatives
While the Spurs are just 11 games into the season and Murray hasn’t had the luxury of playing full-time minutes, there have still been areas of concern for the Seattle native. As a team, San Antonio has shown glaring flaws in their last eight games and Murray is displaying his fair share of flaws of his own.
Gambling Too Much on Defense
The most impressive accolade Dejounte Murray has received in his young career is his NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection in just his second year with the team. Murray has a natural talent for knowing where to be on the court to not only defend his man but cheat and make plays off the weak-side as well.
So far this season, Murray is still showing an eagerness to make big plays on defense but is getting burned too often with those attempts. Of course, they call it a gamble for a reason: Murray is still making nice plays and getting deflections that are leading to transition buckets on occasion.
Still, on a team that’s currently ranked 22nd in defensive rating and just gave up 129 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves, sometimes solid, safe defense is better.
Murray has the lateral quickness and length to stay with most guards in the league. That said, he is guessing too often by sticking his arms out where he thinks the ball will be and either getting a cheap foul or getting blown by. In limited minutes, the Spurs can’t afford many five-foul nights from him, as he had against Minnesota.
Turning the Ball Over
As it stands after the loss to the Timberwolves, the Spurs are currently tied for 11th in the league in turnovers at 15 per game. The bigger problem? They’re only forcing 12.6, which is last in the NBA. With the kind of defense the Spurs have been playing as of late, every offensive possession is valuable, and Murray is giving the ball away too often.
His 2.8 turnovers per game are only eclipsed by DeMar DeRozan’s 3.2, however, DeRozan plays 11 more minutes per game. Translated to a per-36 minutes basis, Murray’s rate rises to 4.4 fouls, which is much higher than his rate of 2.8 in 2017-18.
The main causes for Murray’s turnovers are forcing passes into tight quarters or wildly driving to the basket. Granted, his ability to finish at the basket has improved, but he’s not exactly Tony Parker quite yet. Once Murray learns to pick his spots to attack a bit better, his turnovers numbers should start going down.
Dejounte Murray: The Positives
Dejounte Murray is one of those players that does a little bit of everything on the court. He crashes the boards, attacks the basket and wreaks havoc on defense, among other things. The good thing about a player like that is when one part of his game isn’t going well, he can often help in other ways.
Without question, the biggest jump Murray has made so far from last season is his court vision. In his rookie season, he played in just 38 games, tallying 48 assists in 322 total minutes. So far in 227 total minutes this year, Murray already has 47 assists.
Murray is dishing out 7.5 assists per 36 minutes, which currently has him assisting at the same rate as noted playmakers Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday. Murray’s previous best mark for assists per 36 minutes was 5.4 in his rookie season.
Murray is already averaging 17.3 points, 11.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists per 36 minutes and almost put up a triple-double in 26 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder. If his passing continues to improve, it’ll do wonders for the Spurs’ offense.
Heart and Hustle
All statistics aside, Dejounte Murray is one of the few Spurs that seems to care about winning and playing hard lately (along with Patty Mills and sometimes Trey Lyles and Bryn Forbes). Disappointingly, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, among others, seem to be giving effort in spurts.
Recently, what’s been most frustrating about the Spurs’ performances has been how they’re losing virtually every hustle play. Opponents are beating San Antonio to loose balls with regularity and grabbing offensive rebounds in crucial situations that they have no business getting.
Murray shows a noticeably higher awareness and eagerness to make things happen when he’s on the court. While it leads to mistakes at times, overall it’s nice to see the 24-year-old exhibiting leadership and accountability.
Murray plays aggressively on both ends, and that aggression is something the Spurs desperately need to feed off of to not get left behind this season.