Keegan Murray is a sophomore 6 8 big wing/forward who played for Iowa last year. Really burst onto the scene this year, becoming one of the leading scorers in the nation, averaging 23.5 points per game. Murray was an underrecruited prospect, just like his twin brother Kris. He played an extra postgrad year in Florida to gain exposure. While he is a sophomore, he is older than what you might expect. In August of this year, he will turn 22. Iowa plays him as a Power Forward who tries to force mismatches, run hard in transition, and just seal guys around the rim as often as possible. After this sophomore season he won the following awards:
Consensus First Team All American
Karl Malone Award
Big Ten MVP
Murray is projected as a potential top 10 or even top 5 pick. I’m not so high on him as the consensus as you will see if you keep reading.
One thing that really sticks out while watching Keegan Murray play basketball is the level of relentlessness. Has such a high motor and keeps pushing to gain an advantage without relenting. Reminds me of those old tennis matches Connors used to play. He was going to do one or two things, over and over again. In the case of Murray its running hard in transition and if that fails seal a smaller defender in the post. If that doesn’t work, move around, find another mismatch and seal him off in the post. Murray doesn’t have the most explosive first step, but is really fast end to end when you give him a driving lane. Had a lot of impactful dunks of two feet out of transition.
The post game isn’t pretty, but its effective. The only real post move he has is a left shoulder fadeaway which he uses only if he can’t bully a guy inches away from the rim. He does something similar to what EJ Liddell does, flailing out of balance into a guy. But he is a far better finisher, and can finish through contact at a very impressive rate. And he will keep coming and coming at you, pushing, moving, until you give up position. He’s will is so strong. But you can’t dominate on will alone, especially if you aren’t a Embiid or Shaq big, which Murray is very far away from.
Has a good combination of length and instinct on the offensive boards. His teammates also feel a lot more confident shooting when he’s around the hoop guarded by a smaller guy. But none the less, a very focused and diligent rebounder on both ends of the floor. Flashing grab and go potential in transition. One thing that limits it is his handle. To be effective in the NBA it will need a lot of tightening up, especially his off hand.
That same combo of length and instinct serves him well as a weakside rim protector. Its eerie how suddenly he appears and just swats that ball, like he’s smashing a mosquito that has been buzzing around him for a hour and pissing him off royally. Rarely fouls. Fights in the post, like he was fighting for dear life. Really hard to seal. But when guys do, they do move him, his lower body doesn’t have outlier strength. I like his ability to stay in front of guys on the perimeter. Had a few interesting sequences switching, especially against Johnny Davis. Can apply a good amount of on ball pressure against shaky ball handlers. Both the stance and the way he moves his feet give me optimism about his ability to guard multiple positions on the next level.
I’m not that optimistic about his shot and ability to space the floor tho. Don’t think I was ever more pessimistic or bullish about somebodies shot and touch when they were close to 40% from three. Murray’s touch is very inconsistent. Nothing exemplifies that better than his free throws. The ball misses all over the place. While he is a 74% FT shooter, the misses are both loud and land in different locations, front, sides, back rim, you name it. At times he will splash two in a row, but it’s a rarity. There is a good chance this was an outlier shooting season. He shot 29% last year. This year it increased to 39%. The thing is that his free throws didn’t improve as well, but mildly dipped by 2%. The shot itself on catch and shoot is a bit slower than I would want it to be. He does exhibits NBA range, but the misses are loud and ugly.
And for a big wing/forward who is supposed to space it and attack closeouts, there aren’t any real dunks out of closeouts. Have watched multiple games and have yet to see him attempt something that should be an essential part of his game. There isn’t any real explosion in the half court with him. He did flash a few go to scoring moves and pull up game out of the PnR. But, haven’t really seen him explode to the rim out of the PnR as a ball handler either.
His vision is very limited. I don’t think I ever saw him make a above average passing read. Teams double him in the post and that usually ends as turnover. Its part subpar handle, part subpar vision. Hard to differentiate where the fault lies, but I have doubts that he will be a connector piece in the NBA.
Really struggling how his game translates to the next level. If you have a center that is around the rim, you can’t have him try and seal guys all the time. There is also the question of the shot and handle. Kid plays super hard and seems like a A+ person, but there are limits to will and intangibles.
To be ignorant of what occurred before your Time is to always remain the Sacramento Kings – Marcus Tullius Cicero
Lets look at how his advanced and per 100 stats compare with those of the prospects drafted in the last decade.
Advanced stats love him and see him as an absolute monster. The combination of usage and turnover percentage is just jaw dropping. One of the reasons for that is the way they play him. He is never asked to create stuff and excels as a play finisher. Possession by possession, there aren’t many plays where he could screw up something. Team also plays a lot of halfcourt trap defenses that lead to easy dunks on the other end for him or his teammates.
The only thing that worries is the low or below average amount of three’s his taking and free throws he’s generating. I was surprised by the low number of free throws, especially since most of his game in the half court is predicated on contact around the rim.
Pretty similar story when we look at the per 100 possession stats. He looks like a monster and at least above average in everything he does. The low number of assists, especially for such a high shot attempts and below average free throw percentage are red flags. In a way, he is if the Phoenix Suns were a draft prospect. A lot of 2s with surprising efficiency, not a lot of 3s nor penetration to the rim. Suns season was a bust, lets hope Keegan’s NBA career isn’t.
In terms of defensive impact, Murray posted a defensive box plus minus of 2,4. In terms of playmaking on the defensive end he ended up with a very impressive 6,2 block rate and a solid 2,3 steal rate. I’m a bit bullish on the steal rate and think its inflated by the way Iowa played defense this year. He dominated the glass on both ends, with a 9,8 offensive rebound rate and 20,2 defensive rebounding rate.
If we look for sophomores of similar stature/size and those who have posted a similar DBPM we get the following group of guys:
Four proven and impactful defenders in the playoffs and Jordan Nwora. I’m an optimist in terms of his defense and I think the closest he could be is a forward version of Bullock on the defensive end. He doesn’t have the strength of Patterson and Grant Williams, so he will be more effective switching down than up. I doubt he could handle small ball fives even, like a Bam Adebayo.
Will He Be Able To Space the Floor
Keegan Murray shot the ball extremely well, posting a 39,8% three-point percentage and taking 8,6 attempts per 100 possessions. He also posted an OK free throw percentage of 74,7 percent. Sophomores of similar size who posted similar numbers were:
It’s a mixed bag, but mostly average or slightly above average three-point shooters. Based on what I have seen, I’m of the opinion that Murray will end up towards the lower half of the list. The tape isn’t kind to his jumper. There is also one big difference between him and them, Murray is more than a year older than most of these guys were and a year is a long time when you are talented and hard working. I think there is a chance Murray ends up a Chuma Okeke, 32% shooter in the NBA. The most likely outcome is someone like Chase Budinger. If he improves his touch and mechanics, he could get to Huerter’s level of 38% on 6 attempts, but with less versatility.
Creation for Others
Murray posted an assist percentage of 10 and had a positive assist to turnover ratio of 1,35. Sophomores with similar size and numbers were:
Nobody you would consider a creator, or even a connector. Mostly guys who end up with an assist or two by accident or making the extra pass. The best passer out of this group of guys is Parsons and he was a way more creative and skilled player than Murray will end up being. I see him in a Mikal Bridges mold, around 2 assists per game.
Keegan Murray posted a high usage of 28,1 and a very impressive true shooting percentage of 63,8 percent. Looking for drafted sophomores with similar size and stats, we find the following guys:
Except for Gordon Hayward, doesn’t really light up nor present an outcome meriting a top 5 pick. I don’t think he can reach Hayward’s level as a scorer. Toppin is the second best scorer out of this group of players and he is by far the most efficient. But Toppin is a vastly superior athlete to Murray. While Murray projects as a better shooter, I don’t think he can create the same scoring volume as Toppin. Which brings us to his scoring floor, Luke Babbit, a more aggressive version, scoring more on hustle plays than Babbit did, but not nearly as good a floor spacer. I think Hachimura is the most likely outcome. Someone who can get you 15, 16 points, but probably below league average in terms of efficiency. Derrick Williams is the ceiling.
Four Modern Prometheuses
When we line up all the advance stats comps we get 3 possible outcomes
The Scoring Gravity of Rui Hachimura, The Creation of Mikal Bridges, The Floor Spacing of Chase Budinger, the defensive impact of Larry Nance Jr
Or in per 75 possession stats
15 points on -2 TS, 8 rebounds, 2,5 assists, 35% from three on 5,5 attempts
The Scoring Gravity of Derrick Williams, The Creation of Chandler Parsons, The Floor Spacing of Kevin Huerter, the defensive impact of Reggie Bullock
Or in per 75 possession stats
17 points on -1 TS, 9 rebounds, 3,5 assists, 38% from three on 5,5 attempts
The Scoring Gravity of Luke Babbit, The Creation of Jerami Grant, The Floor Spacing of Chuma Okeke, the defensive impact of Jordan Nwora
Or in per 75 possession stats
13 points on -1 TS, 7 rebounds 1,5 assist, 32% from three on 5 attempts
When I put tape and stats together, I predict X as the fusion of the following parts:
The Scoring Gravity of Rui Hachimura, The Creation of Mikal Bridges, The Floor Spacing of Chase Budinger, the defensive impact of Reggie Bullock
Or in per 75 possession stats
15 points on -2 TS, 8 rebounds , 2,5 assists, 35% from three on 5,5 attempts