In the closing moments of a mid-February game against the Erie Bayhawks, the Grand Rapids Drive looked to veteran guard Kevin Murphy to help seal the deal. Down 102-101 with 21 seconds on the game clock, Murphy received a handoff from Henry Ellenson which left him in an isolation showdown against Bayhawks guard Michael Lyons. While most players would recognize that situation as a good reason to take his defender off-the-dribble to get some action around the rim, Kevin Murphy isn’t like most players.
After receiving the handoff from Ellenson, Murphy worked to position himself towards the center of the perimeter, an area where he’s hit 42% of his jumpers. Following that repositioning, Murphy pulled off a pretty step-back move which was enough to temporarily shake Lyons out of his sneakers. Lyons’ short-term was enough for Murphy to create enough separation for him to get an open look to hit the long two-point jumper. While that long two would probably make Daryl Morey lose some hairs, it was enough to help push the Drive to a 105-102 victory over Erie.
That incredible confidence exhibited by Murphy in that victory over Erie has been evident throughout this D-League season. While most of the attention surrounding the Grand Rapids Drive has been centered on the play of Jordan Crawford and Ray McCallum, Murphy has continued to stand as one of the best backcourt scoring threats in the D-League. In 36 games with the Drive, Murphy has averaged 22.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 45% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. Murphy’s efficiency has allowed him to maintain an impressive 59% True Shooting Percentage.
As evident from that game-winning shot against Erie, Murphy has a ton of confidence in his jumper. His self-assurance is warranted as Murphy possess the kind of shooting stroke that allows him to fire off smooth jumpers whether he’s working off-the-dribble or through catch-and-shoots. Although Murphy doesn’t necessarily have a preference, he seems more comfortable with working off-the-dribble due to his ability to utilize his handles to get some kind of advantage on the opposing guard.
Murphy’s solid handles has also allowed him to have plenty of success as an on-ball cutter. Although he’s not the quickest or most athletic player in the D-League, Murphy’s still able to consistently make his way to the rim with a solid first step and crafty moves.
After he’s able to move past the initial defender, Murphy can utilize side-steps or spin moves to gain an open look from around the rim. Even if he’s unable to do that, Murphy can use his solid 185 pound frame to score around contact. Those moves has allowed Murphy to shoot 59% from around the restricted area, a pretty good average for a shooting guard.
After spending the last five years grinding with various D-League and international teams, it appears that Kevin Murphy may be the closest he’s been a spot in the NBA since he was picked by the Utah Jazz in the 2012 NBA Draft. Nearly five years later, Murphy has progressed to the point where he arguably stands as the best offensive player in the NBA D-League. With great abilities as an on-ball cutter combined with an excellent perimeter jumper, I think Kevin Murphy is ready to show that he can exhibit his incredible offensive confidence on the NBA level.