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30Q: Can Keegan Murray win Rookie of the Year?

It's not Sacramento's primary goal, but Keegan Murray's consistency and continued growth could put him in the conversation.

Keegan Murray shined across the 2022 NBA Summer League and quickly got the whole of the Sacramento fanbase behind him early in July. He tackled the Kings' seven summer contests with his usual consistent, calm approach, while also showing continued, impressive improvements as an on-ball creator and off-the-dribble scorer. He hit buzzer beating and overtime-forcing shots, deservedly won the Summer League MVP award, and earned himself a spot in the early conversation for the 2023 Rookie of the Year award.

Of course, the Kings’ focus is making the playoffs, and Murray doesn’t need to win the award to help make that a reality. Sacramento fans know as well as any that a ROY trophy doesn’t guarantee a young player continued success or define the success of the franchise. But given the squad’s need for competence and consistency from the forward spots, Murray could certainly make a case for Rookie of the Year, especially if the Kings compete for a playoff/play-in spot deep into the season.

That said, one of the greatest aspects of Keegan’s game is his ability to be a consistent, big-time impact player just through the flow of the game; this was true when he was the go-to leading scorer at Iowa and was still the case when he was the Summer League MVP. He almost always makes basketball decisions with purpose and pose. He doesn’t demand the ball or force up heat-check shots—and his excellent deep shooting ability will make him one hell of an secondary offensive fit next to De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. But this secondary role may be what keeps him from winning the Rookie of the Year award, which very often goes to youngsters who are focal points of their team’s offense. Among the past four winners–Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, LaMelo Ball, and Scottie Barnes–only Barnes did not lead his team in points, usage rate, or both.

My bet (as well as Las Vegas’ bet) for Rookie of the Year is Paolo Banchero; Orlando needs a go-to scoring and playmaking option, and while the Magic probably won’t compete for a playoff spot, Banchero is going to put up big-time numbers for that squad and will almost certainly get more touches than Murray.

Barring injuries, it seems very unlikely that Murray leads the Kings in scoring and/or usage rate, but he could have a similar impact that Scottie Barnes did last year when he won the award in Toronto. While Barnes was 5th amongst Raptors for points per game and 5th amongst high-minute players for usage rate, he put up excellent numbers—15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 49.2% from the field—and, most importantly, was excellent on both ends of the court for a Toronto squad that finished 5th in the East. Being great for a good basketball team seems a dang straightforward way to earn award consideration.

Of course, no rookie, Keegan very much included, needs to win the ROY award to be a meaningful NBA player moving forward – just check in on the dude who lost the award in 2009. But it would mean much for the Kings to see Murray belong in consideration, as it’ll signal his continued consistency and improvement. Keegan Murray has had one hell of a basketball ascension in the last 10 months, and it’s time to stop betting against his continued rise.

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aplumley
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September 5, 2022 11:14 am

ROY? I see Keegan as more of a MVP candidate.

Hozr
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September 6, 2022 1:05 pm
Reply to  aplumley

Just like Bagley.

<ducks>

catterj
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September 5, 2022 11:24 am

He can, but it is unlikely.

Fox is the first option on the Kings, and Coach Brown should order Sabonis to make himself the second. For third, I suppose the safe pick is Barnes which would obviously be bad for Keegan’s chance at ROY. But Keegan may be able to be that third option if he’s great out of the gate … or it could be Huerter. If Monk outplays Huerter to get the starting spot, it could be Monk. Really, it’s a melee for third option whereas I would imagine your typical ROY candidate may be at worst be in a debate for first option.

Also, if Sean Cunningham’s doomsday quasi-reporting on The Kings Beat podcast comes true, it may be that Keegan doesn’t even start. That would torpedo his chances. Hopefully, Sean got some bad info as Richaun would have to really “reinvent” his game to be a solid starting option with Sabonis.

RikSmits
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September 5, 2022 9:31 pm
Reply to  catterj

What do you mean with first option? Being The Guy or the main scorer, the floor general or the guy with the highest usage?
i have to assume that you don’t see Fox nor Sabonis as the first options to lead our defense.

I think that the offense has to run mainly via Sabonis. He’s the more efficient scorer and he’s excellent at setting other guys up, via passing, setting screens and offensive rebounds. Overall, I think Sabonis is the more important guy for elevating the play of the team. I also think he has better leadership qualities. That’s just not one of Fox’s strengths.

The beauty of Murray is that he can fit snugly into a team headed by Fox and Sabonis, especially if he can hit from deep consistently.

Since 20-5-5 I don’t give a rodent’s posterior about the ROY race.

catterj
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September 5, 2022 10:59 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

With first option, I meant first option to score. Regardless of their relative efficiency at scoring, Fox is the first option in that sense. He has scored more than Sabonis from the 19-20 season on, albeit on different teams for the vast majority of that time.

Also, I agree with you if you are saying Sabonis is the floor general. He had 5.8 assists per game as a Kings another 5.8 screen assists per game as a King. The Kings will almost certainly utilize him in split cut actions with the guards including Fox especially with Mike Brown having been on the GSW staff that ran that action a lot. Sabonis being such a good facilitator out of the low post, elbows, and on the short roll hopefully continues to unlock Fox’s offense as the first scoring option.

I agree Sabonis appears to be more of the leader fans seem to need to see. At least on my TV, NBC California kept playing a commercial of Sabonis rejecting a player then making an outlet for a Donte three. The camera stays near Sabonis and he yells in celebration to the crowd after Donte makes it. I do believe Sabonis can be that guy. Fox is not as you said. I wish people would just stop asking whether he can become that. The question is now rhetorical. That is not him.

I get the joke about Sabonis not being the first option to lead the defense. I know he’s never been a good rim protector. But he has been a good defensive rebounder. For the season his defensive rebounding percentage was 26.4%. While on SAC it was 29.3% which would have been tied for 4th in the league if he had done it all season. The positive endings of a possession for the defense is for the offense to turn the ball over in some way, for the defense to secure a defensive, and … that’s it. The Kings, including Sabonis, must do their best to lower the field goal percentage of their opponents through their defense. If they succeed in inducing a missed shot, Sabonis will be there to positively end the offense’s possession.

SmallBallReject
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September 6, 2022 12:20 am
Reply to  RikSmits

In the half-court, I imagine the offence runs mostly through Sabonis; otherwise through Fox. What the balance between half-court and otherwise is will also depend on how well the Kings defend.

fossilizedflatus
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September 5, 2022 11:46 am

He might be the best rookie, he might be the best player of his draft class – but RoY? Doubtful. And I like that.

This current roster has no need to have a rookie PF start. Bring him in like how the successful teams do it. Find the spots that will be play to his strengths and work on his deficiencies. Continue to have a super mentor amd tutor, in Harrison Barnes, foster his introduction into the Association. If he comes out of the gate, or in the first couple of months, dominating – well, all the better. Don’t Tyreke him (20-5-5! Did you see his Driver’s License!).

Train him, don’t strain him.

Jack
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September 5, 2022 12:13 pm

I don’t care if he is ROY and from what I see he doesn’t care either. If he puts up anywhere near last years ROY numbers I will be a very happy Kings fan. If Monty trades Barnes then Keegan would probably fall at 3 on the usage chart or maybe 4. What I would like to see and I believe Keegan does too is to make the playoffs.

UsedToLoveTheKings
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September 5, 2022 11:57 am

Tyreke Evans (#13) or bust…

Yakshi
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Nostradumbass 21
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September 5, 2022 12:27 pm

Every single rookie is “unlikely” or “doubtful” to win ROY simply because there are so many candidates.

Can Keegan win? Of course.

Are his chances better than every other rookie? I think so.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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September 5, 2022 12:32 pm

No. Paolo is gonna get 35+ minutes a game and a ton of usage. He’ll put up impressive numbers on a sub-part team. He also has the hype machine behind him.

Socalpurplecurse
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September 5, 2022 2:04 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Yeah and the hype machine is right to be pumping him, he’s box office and has the physicality and game to back it up. Looking at him next to Keegan made him look all of the 6’10 measurables plus the strength that made him the 1st pick. Keegan has that Paul Millsap vibe, a solid 3 level non flashy scorer with more defensive potential. What Keegan has going for him that could thrust him into stardom is his legitimate ambidextrous skills and near 7′ wingspan along with his sniper ability if he can translate it into the nba. Unless he looks completely outmatched in practice, I don’t see any reason not to start him, even if he doesn’t get starter minutes per say. I see a 9-10man rotation like this with some nice Size in our starting 5 and a speedy athletic bench.

1 Foxy. Davion
2 Huerter. Monk
3 Barnes. TD
4 Keegan. Lyles
5 Sabonis. Holmes

Kingsguru21
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September 5, 2022 12:33 pm

If Keegan starts off well early, and the other top rookies like Banchero scuffle a bit at the beginning, anything is possible. Especially if Keegan maintains a strong rookie season throughout on a winning team, no less.

Would I put high odds on it? Nah, I’d bet on Banchero, too, if I were laying down money on it. But it’s not impossible if things break right for Keegan Murray to have him win ROTY.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 5, 2022 1:58 pm

If he does win ROY they need to put the trophy right next to the summer league championship trophy.

Means nothing.

murraytant
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September 5, 2022 2:42 pm

It’s possible but not likely.
J. Smith is not ready. Chet on the shelf, Banchero poised to win because he shoots so much and will be headlined. And there are a few outsiders.
Actually, it may be bad if he wins, since this would mean that his initial season was so good that Fox, Sabonis and others were diminished.
right now, 4th or fifth option- that’s good. I hope he gradually moves to within the top 3.but ROY? not important.

Jack
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September 5, 2022 3:34 pm
Reply to  murraytant

I agree. The only thing I would like to see if we can trade Barnes for a younger 3 and D. I have a couple of ideas but I’ll wait a little while to express them.

murraytant
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September 5, 2022 5:06 pm
Reply to  Jack

You know, Jack, that I aways enjoy your trade ideas.
I LOL because bless your heart, you only see the Kings side, like, trade Barnes + Len for OG and Precious.
I do hope, as I am sure that you do as well that Barnes is the Kings weak link, that Murray moves up to a strong third option. If Barnes remains Kings third best player, Kings are in trouble.

Jack
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September 5, 2022 6:53 pm
Reply to  murraytant

murraytant I really appreciate you comment. I was going to wait a while to give my next and I think my last trade idea. First though I have to change some of you comment. Yes it was a trade for OG Anunoby and Precious Achuiwa but it was Barnes plus Lyles not Len and included in that trade was two firsts and two seconds.I now know that was too much for one guy.
I really like Barnes. He has done everything the Kings have asked him to do. Now because of his age, one step slower and expiring contract I think it is time to trade him. The question is where will that be? My idea is to trade him to the Clippers. He could be the player that puts them over the top. The trade would consist of Barnes and a first round for Luke Kennard and Terance Mann.First the money works. Kennard is one of the top three point shooters in the NBA. He is also an underrated play maker. He is a clutch shooter when you need a 3 or just a bucket. Mann is the one I really like.He is young and hasn’t reached his potential. He’s a very good defender, shoots 60% on drives and pullup twos, doesn’t have to have the ball all the time to make an impact, is always moving(would work great with Sabonis) and because he would be fourth or fifth man to go to doesn’t have to score 20 pts.a game. 10 to 14 a game would be average, and lastly he has a high BBIQ. Can’t ask for much more.

eddie41
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September 5, 2022 10:37 pm

Can he score on Davion Mitchell?

Jack
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September 6, 2022 6:19 am
Reply to  eddie41

If he was a King thank goodness we would’t have to worry about that.

Marty
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September 6, 2022 7:17 am

What does this mean?

Keegan Murray….it’s time to stop betting against his continued rise.

Daydreamer
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September 6, 2022 7:35 am
Reply to  Marty

I think it is disagreeing with people who have said he was a high floor/low ceiling draftee.

1951
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September 6, 2022 9:45 am

Yeah, if they wait for Keegan to lead the Kings to the title before voting.

andy_sims
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September 6, 2022 6:37 pm

Even while I was advocating to take Ivey, I was clear that I thought Murray would be more likely to compete for ROY. It was plain that he was ready to play in the NBA immediately, and would have solid rookie numbers.

Gonna be some great rookies this season, no doubt.

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