Leading up to the 2016 NBA Draft, credible mock drafts projected Dejounte Murray to be a lottery pick or at least be taken in the top 20, but he ended up falling to pick No. 29. It's crazy to think that he fell that far while also having a team in the San Antonio Spurs ended up with a player that could've been a lottery pick. Teams probably passed on Murray because they were worried about his ability to shoot, struggles taking care of the basketball, and because he is still such a raw player. Both Murray and lottery pick Marquese Chriss played at the University of Washington last year and the team didn't have a good season, which could be another reason why teams passed on Murray. Ultimately, the Spurs had a lottery pick fall into their lap.
Murray made his debut for the Spurs in NBA Summer League against the Boston Celtics, and he didn't disappoint. He scored 21 points, added 5 rebounds, and shot 66.7 percent from the field. He showed off his elite athleticism last night and offensive talent, but he also showed some of his flaws. If he wants to play in the Spurs system any time soon, he has to learn how to take better care of the basketball and he has to learn to make smarter decisions on defense. Murray is not you classic Spur; he is raw, unproven, and extremely athletic. The Spurs usually draft players that would fit well in their system, but they are taking a risk on Murray because his potential was hard to pass on at pick No. 29.
The Risk Of Drafting Murray
Think about the last time the Spurs took a big risk in the first round of the NBA Draft; they traded George Hill for Kawhi Leonard in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Leonard pick/trade was basically the last time the Spurs had a pick in the top 20 of the NBA Draft since 1997 when they took some scrub named Tim Duncan with the #1 overall pick. The Spurs have been one of the most successful NBA franchises since 1997, and they have not had to worry about taking risks on draft picks with high upside. The first big risk they took since Duncan was Leonard, and now the next risk is Murray.
Murray shined in his debut for the Spurs in summer league, but he did also display what he needs to work on. He fouled Terry Rozier on the three-point shot at the end of the game, which basically cost the Spurs the game. These things will get Murray zero playing time for the Spurs next season. Murray is probably not going to see the floor that much next season, but to develop someone raw like Murray, you need to get him some playing time to gain experience and confidence. Kawhi Leonard played 24.0 MPG as a rookie, even though he was very raw like Murray. I am not saying that Murray and Kawhi are the same player, but they have some similarities. Both very athletic coming out of college, not great shooters but could score, and not very good at taking care of the basketball.
If you take a look at both of their college stats, they are actually pretty similar, but Kawhi is obviously a much better defender than Murray and he plays a totally different position. They had very similar shooting percentages and they both had a similar amount of turnovers. Kawhi came out of college a poor three-point shooter (career 25 percent three-point shooter, and now he has totally found his shot (career 39.1 percent three-point shooter). The Spurs have helped Kawhi find his shot, and they should be able to help Murray find his jumper as well (28.8 percent three-point shooter at Washington).
Hopefully Murray will get to see the floor a lot in his rookie season, but do not be surprised if he spends sometime playing for the Austin Spurs. He could become the next big D-League star because he was a projected lottery pick that fell, so he could shine for Austin. If he keeps playing like he did in his summer league debut, then he will tear up the D-League.
Drafting Murray was the right move, but it was also a risky pcik by the Spurs. They could've drafted a safe proven player late in the first round, but the franchise is coming to a turning point, and taking a risk on Murray might have been their only option. Hopefully he can become an elite player like Kawhi, but it is going to take some time before we know if he can. The good news is that the Spurs did not have to give up anyone to make a risky pick, so that is working in the Spurs' favor.
Murray is raw, freakishly athletic, and has great length, but he is the opposite of what the Spurs look for in players; maybe it is a perfect match? Keep an eye out for Murray in the during the rest of summer league. Murray is a high-risk, high-reward pick, and the last time the Spurs took a big risk in the draft; it paid off.