Young Spur Spotlight: Dejounte Murray

Rick Browner - Associated Press

After promising freshman and sophomore stints that featured glimpses of stardom, Dejounte Murray was thought to be a possible Most Improved Player candidate entering his third year. The 29th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft was thought to rival top candidates such as Bam Adebayo and Devonte' Graham; instead his season has been simply… average.

Murray had many encouraging games as a rookie. For example, lead guard Tony Parker was injured going into game six of the 2017 Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets; Murray put up 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists en route to taking down H-Town. In that same rookie season, Murray once torched the Denver Nuggets for 24 points, which was his career high as recently as the last game before this year’s All-Star break.

Then there was that one time Murray dropped 23 points against the Los Angeles Lakers during Kawhi Leonard’s self-diagnosed diva disease that abruptly ended his career in San Antonio.

Despite having a few break-out games already notched under his belt, consistency has been Murray’s biggest problem. However, in recent outings, he has been putting up star-quality numbers. On February 11th vs the Thunder, DeRozan was out with back spasms and Murray recorded 29 points on 9/12 shooting from the field, to go with 3 rebounds and 3 steals in a win that snapped their 5 game losing streak.

Murray is averaging 18.7 ppg in the last 3 games with a 58% field goal percentage, and DeRozan has sat out ⅔ of those games.

Murray is scoring 10.4 ppg, up +2.3 points from his sophomore year. His efficiency is much improved, with a field goal percentage of 49%, as opposed to 44% last year. Murray’s 3-point shooting percentage has also vastly improved, rising from 26% last year to 38% this season.

Murray has become much more productive when the ball is in his hands - unfortunately, the days of the Spurs’ ’ flawless ball moving system has not worked like it has the past 20 years, and I chalk it up to DeRozan and Aldridge having too many isolation plays and not enough Popovichian play-calling wizardry,.

Although DeRozan has been ballin out this year, scoring 23 points per game on 53% from the field, his sky-high 28% usage rate, clock-dwindling isos, and lack of a three point shot has turned Popovich’s once unguardable offensive schemes into a mid-range mess. Perhaps DeRozan is the reason for Murray’s stunted growth. Although a small sample size, Murray’s recent stretch has been with DeRozan sidelined in 2 of his 3 scoring outbursts.

If San Antonio wants to develop Dejounte Murray and their young core properly, they need to ditch their two aging star veterans, sending DeRozan and Aldridge away for young assets and draft picks. Sitting at 24-31, San Antonio is sitting precariously on the outside of the playoff bubble, and needs to start looking toward the future.

Sitting at 10th in the west, this San Antonio club is too good to acquire a high draft pick, and too bad to do any type of damage in the playoffs. This dead-man's zone of NBA purgatory usually pushes franchises into pursuing a full rebuild, which looks inevitable in San Antonio.

Until the Spurs blows it up, the full potential of Dejounte Murray will not be unlocked; he will continue to struggle until he finds a more consistent role - preferably with the ball in his hands.