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How long will analysts keep underrating Keegan Murray’s upside?

A recent redraft has me contemplating Keegan's future.
By | 54 Comments | May 9, 2023

Dec 16, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray (13) dribbles defended by Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey (23) in the second half at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

From the moment the Sacramento Kings drafted Keegan Murray, pundits (myself included) have questioned Keegan’s upside. After a full season in the NBA, in which I would argue Keegan exceeded lofty expectations, those same doubts still remain.

In a re-draft of the 2022 Draft Class, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie ranked Keegan Murray SEVENTH!

From Vecenie:

I had Murray a bit lower than this on my board pre-draft, even though I expected him to be able to come in and impact the NBA earlier than most other rookies as a more-developed 22-year-old. Indeed, Murray was quite good on a terrific Kings team this season, averaging 12 points and five rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3. I thought he got better defensively as the season went on and was an impact player in the playoffs. Murray averaged 10 points and six rebounds while shooting 48 percent from 3 in the playoffs, playing 28 minutes and proving he can stay on the court in big moments. Most importantly, after three difficult playoff games, Murray improved drastically in the final four, averaging 15 points and eight rebounds while shooting over 51 percent. Murray looks exactly like what was expected of him pre-draft. I compared him to Tobias Harris before the draft, and I still feel like that is the most likely outcome: a player who is super efficient offensively, can occasionally create his own shot and not be a sieve defensively in big moments. Harris had a five-year stretch from 2017-22 when he averaged 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists while shooting 48 percent from the field, 39 percent from 3 and 85 percent from the line. I think that’s probably the ballpark for Murray, with a peak of averaging 20 points per game at some point. I’d rather take a flier on the greater upside of the players above him, but I think there is a case for him as high as No. 3 if you think his shot creation has a little more juice than I’m projecting.

The players, in order, that Vecenie ranks above Keegan Murray:

  1. Paolo Banchero
  2. Jalen Williams
  3. Chet Holmgren
  4. Jaden Ivey
  5. Shaedon Sharpe
  6. Jeremy Sochan

Now, it is important to note that Vecenie is not ranking these players based just on their rookie seasons, but rather is using their rookie seasons as yet another data point for analysis. But where I take issue with Vecenie’s analysis (and to be clear, I’m a big fan of Vecenie’s work, I think he puts out some of the best draft content out there), is that these rankings still rely on upside far more than they rely on NBA output.

Kings fans, of course, know that rookie year output does not equate to an NBA career. There must be a minimum of four Kings fans who have done laser removal of a 20-5-5 tattoo.

It’s also worth noting that every player Vecenie lists above Keegan had a very good year. I 100% agree with Paolo as the top pick in a redraft. I also understand still keeping Chet so high on the board, even though this year’s injury immediately validated all the concerns people had (and concerns I argued against in the pre-draft process!) about Chet’s frame and durability.

I also understand the upside arguments for Williams, Ivey, and Sharpe. And I’m a big fan of Sochan, he’s an incredible player whose contributions aren’t fully evident on a stat sheet. I hated every game the Kings had to play against him.

But there’s one line I keep coming back to that sticks in my craw:

I’d rather take a flier on the greater upside of the players above him, but I think there is a case for him as high as No. 3 if you think his shot creation has a little more juice than I’m projecting.

This is the essence of the debate. Do you believe in Murray’s upside. And slotting him seventh and then throwing in a note that he could be as high as 3 feels like a cop-out against the future success Murray is likely to have.

Keegan Murray didn’t have the luxury of jacking up a high volume of shots to find his way in the NBA. Murray was, at best, the third option on the Kings offense, but was more often the 4th or 5th option. At the start of the season his role was little more than standing in the corner to space the floor and hit open threes. Banchero (despite my agreement that he has true superstar potential) had a season Usage Rate of 27.2, higher than Kawhi Leonard, or Russel Westbrook, or Nikola Jokic. Jaden Ivey undoubtedly improved as the season went on, but his 25.1 Usage Rate was higher than Karl-Anthony Towns, or Jimmy Butler, or James Harden.

The simple fact is that the stats of rookies on terrible teams are inflated by the fact that they can play through their mistakes and continue to learn as a primary option. Kings fans have seen it many times! But Keegan Murray demonstrated an ability to score and contribute to meaningful basketball in a limited role and with Mike Brown often imposing a short leash. Kings games simply mattered more, and Murray had to learn to contribute despite not being the featured player, and without the luxury of low expectations.

And all Murray did in that situation was shoot 45.3% overall and 41.1% from 3, setting a rookie record for made threes, and growing his game throughout the year, earning First Team All-Rookie Honors. As the third, fourth, or fifth option on most nights.

There are issues with Murray’s game that he needs to improve, don’t get me wrong. He needs to be better at finishing at the rim in traffic. He needs to continue to improve on defense. He needs to create more off the dribble. But there was nothing about Keegan’s rookie year to suggest he won’t improve in those areas. He improved throughout the year, especially creating off the dribble, which was one of the biggest question marks with Keegan transitioning to the NBA.

Given the growth he demonstrated this past season, and his performance in the playoffs, I think it’s foolish to doubt Keegan’s future in this league. But people have doubted Keegan’s upside from the moment the Kings picked him. Keegan just has to keep quietly proving the doubters wrong.

I believe he will.

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54 Comments
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RPO
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May 9, 2023 10:11 pm

How long will analysts keep underrating Keegan Murray’s upside?

I don’t really care. That re-draft can go suck it. I’m glad Monte selected Keegan.

RikSmits
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May 9, 2023 10:14 pm

Who cares?

It seems that a big part of Kings Twitter is still arguing with Warriors fans or how we are being disrespected by the national media. Calling writers who didn’t give Keegan a vote for the roiokie team an idiot etc.

I sometimes get the feeling that part of this fanbase, and especially people from the Sacramento region, are just as busy with being taken seriously by other cities and reacting to perceived slights as they are with enjoying this team.

Let them underestimate Keegan. Let him prove them wrong. Or not. How many years did it take for Fox to arrive?

The future is exciting. Good enough for me.

Klam
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May 9, 2023 10:20 pm
Reply to  Greg

Hey, at least we didn’t start writing articles about whether lottery lucky would be on our side in February!

RikSmits
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May 9, 2023 10:23 pm
Reply to  Greg

Yeah, it wasn’t so much adressing you. Sorry if it comes off that way.

But I have almost stopped commenting on Twitter because I feel that it is becoming even more insufferable than before.

andy_sims
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May 10, 2023 9:43 am
Reply to  RikSmits

A common complaint, to be sure. All I can say is that I follow about six dozen accounts, and my feed is all good. The platform has certainly gotten worse, but ultimately, nearly everything we see there is a result of choices that we ourselves have made.

Do a little housecleaning, by which I mean a lot of housecleaning, and Twitter can once again be useful for whatever type of thing you’re there for.

Want2win
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May 10, 2023 2:51 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

I go to Twitter to get my blood pressure up… works like a charm!

RPO
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May 9, 2023 10:45 pm
Reply to  Greg

I, for one, get a nice little tingly feeling any time I see a new article pop up on TKH these days. Even if, like this re-draft, the topic isn’t something that entirely excites me. Something to help us with the offseason doldrums.

Klam
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May 10, 2023 7:37 am
Reply to  RPO

Yep, once the NBA postseason is done, gonna have to wait till September until sports pick back up again (NFL season starts, NBA media day/training camp, nearing of MLB postseason). Summer is sooooooo long.

alec26
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May 12, 2023 3:19 pm
Reply to  Klam

Yeah, they should have a sport just for the boys of summer.

Marty
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May 10, 2023 11:26 am
Reply to  Greg

I’ll be honest, I’ve have a had time writing about anything since the Kings got eliminated

I’ve also had trouble watching ANY NBA playoff games, including my Sixers.

There is a certain odd combination of both fatigue and satisfaction after this Kings season, like leaning back in your chair after a fine buffet is finally over.

andy_sims
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May 10, 2023 2:55 pm
Reply to  Marty

The key is to unbutton your pants before you start. It applies to everything.

Ellis5
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May 10, 2023 3:17 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

What pants?

andy_sims
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May 12, 2023 10:07 am
Reply to  Ellis5

So well-played.

Jack
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May 10, 2023 8:55 am
Reply to  RikSmits

The national media think they know everything there is about basketball and players. In reality they don’t know squat. They get opinions wrong more than right. Just because they are has been players doesn’t make them right. I don’t listen to them so I could care less. I was a coach so I know who Keegan Murray is. As a rookie he has a lot to improve but I am truly happy is a King.

Want2win
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May 10, 2023 3:29 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Yes we have a little bit of a complex.. or I think a lot of us do. but F@ck it we deserve them to put some respect in SacRespectmento!

murraytant
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May 9, 2023 10:14 pm

I was surprised as well to read this.
Upside? Holmgren was highly rated prior to draft but did not play. Willaims not so highly rated and played on a middle of the road team and was allowed a lot of freedom.
Sharpe looked out classed early and once given the total green light, did well.
Sohan could not shoot all year.
Ivey- lots of empty calories.

Keegan (and I am a homer)- scored 12.2 and 4.6 as the fifth option. Played all games but 2. Set rookie 3-point record. Led nation last year in scoring over all those guys-
so why rated 7th?
Time will tell.

TheGrantNapear
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May 10, 2023 12:17 pm
Reply to  murraytant

The draft rankings will look much different at the end of next season and even more so at the end of the following season. Not much to take from it after year 1.

richie88
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May 9, 2023 10:45 pm

Yeah, I disagreed w/putting Sochan above Keegan when I read this since I doubt that he’ll score enough to be better than Keegan. Ivey has a higher ceiling than Keegan, but I doubt that he’ll be a better player than Keegan, so I also disagreed w/putting him above Keegan. I could see the other players being better or worse than Keegan, but I’d probably drop Holmgren below Keegan due to his injury concerns.

Last edited 1 year ago by richie88
andy_sims
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May 10, 2023 9:45 am
Reply to  richie88

That’s a seven-Keegan paragraph.

Keegan.

Milkman
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May 10, 2023 1:29 am

I think the bar can be higher than Tobias Harris. If Keegan works on the handles and footwork, I think his ceiling can be like a cross between Paul Pierce and good Antoine Walker. I see Sasha Vezenkov being more like a cross between Tobias Harris and David Lee.

RikSmits
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May 10, 2023 6:50 am
Reply to  Milkman

comment image

RPO
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May 10, 2023 11:50 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I don’t expect that we’ll ever see Keegan doing that.

Ifeanyi
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May 14, 2023 11:23 pm
Reply to  Milkman

I was thinking more Danny Granger pre-injury. Time will tell, excited for his future!

nico.zand
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May 10, 2023 4:47 am

Personally in a redraft Murray would be 2nd for me, behind only Banchero (tbh I had him 2nd also pre draft).
When you factor in also USG, by the way, Tobias Harris is basically closer to what Murray is now than to his actual ceiling as a player.

nonstripedzebra
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May 10, 2023 7:24 am

Would I have Keegan higher, yes but I think the names around him are of a similar ilk. I do think it comes down to partially what you value or are aesthetically drawn towards. I also think that draft is possibly an incredible one. 10 names down and they all seem fairly assuring as longterm plus starters. Thats abnormal.

More on Keegan I think the offseason could be huge for him. He can trusts his shooting is top end even in the NBA. Thats an incredible skill to build from. That said I think the slippery at the rim finishing he showed at Iowa has to be a point of emphasis this offseason. He likes to find seams and glide and has a nose for cutting, but comfort with contact finishing could really open his offensive game. Even more so off his own handle.

I think questions of him being a three or four are also really interesting. I think most land more on the four end because of foot speed. But in the same token i’m not sure he is vertical enough or able to drift to the helpside for five. A fact relevant with plans that Domas is here longterm. Personally he shouldn’t force that clarity yet even if the team is thinking one way.

All in all an exciting player to build with. Congrats on 1st team Keegan.

Last edited 1 year ago by nonstripedzebra
billoddity
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May 10, 2023 7:38 am

The fact that both Mathurin and Murray are not on this list means this list nonsense.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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May 10, 2023 7:59 am

Pish Posh! Vecenie had Jabari Smith Jr. as #1 in his mock draft just under a year ago. He’s now dropped him down to #8 in a redraft where he leans towards “upside?” How am I supposed to take this analysis seriously? I will give Sam this, he compared Keegan to Tobais Harris (although in a bad way) right after the Kings drafted him, so he’s sticking to that at least.

Keegan just set the rookie record for threes, contributed to a playoff team all year, and did not disappoint at all, yet Vecenie drops him in a redraft. Like I said, pish posh!

nonstripedzebra
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May 10, 2023 8:42 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I think he is one of the better evaluators of describing players and noting their strengths, but I think he often drastically overplays players potential and or just the median outcomes of most drafts. I recently listened to his mock draft and he mentioned a late lottery player assuringly being a plus starter for years. I also vaguely remember him comparing a mid lottery talent to likely having an Iguodala like career. Those are incredible outlier outcomes and I’d argue should be noted as much.

Jack
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May 10, 2023 8:58 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Read my comment above. From what you just said tells me he doesn’t know squat.

Jack
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May 10, 2023 8:59 am
Reply to  Jack

PS There is a lot of ways to judge a player other than stats.

RikSmits
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May 10, 2023 9:29 am
Reply to  Jack

Or maybe he doesn’t know Jack sh*t?

Jack
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May 10, 2023 10:37 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Could be right.

eddie41
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May 10, 2023 9:16 am
Reply to  Adamsite

He had Chet as #1 on his draft board, not Jabari. a “mock draft” is just trying to predict who the teams might select.

His takes are reasonable. 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 dimes with efficient shooting numbers and solid D is not bad. If he were to do a Kings-centric draft board, I bet he’d rank Keegan higher because of his fit.

RPO
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May 10, 2023 11:51 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Rec’d for “pish posh”.

andy_sims
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May 10, 2023 12:35 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

comment image

Roaddog
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May 12, 2023 8:51 am
Reply to  Adamsite

A mock draft is predicting what teams will do, not ranking players by their upside. Apples and oranges.

andy_sims
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May 10, 2023 9:31 am

Hah, just fantastic, a comparison to Tobias Harris, who, while overpaid, is a pretty effing good NBA player:

I think that’s probably the ballpark for Murray, with a peak of averaging 20 points per game at some point.

Vecenie knows more about the NBA than I do, and apparently twenty points per game isn’t all that impressive. But just for giggles, I’ll mention some other things that are kept track of statistically, although no one knows why.

Rebounds: Once Brown lit a fire under Murray’s ass, his numbers began to rise dramatically. With a full season under his belt, Murray will come into next season with a better understanding of how to improve, and I’d not be surprised if he averaged better than six per game.

Full disclosure: I’ve just gotten very bored while writing this, but I think Murray will show improvement in other areas, like scoring at the rim, assists, and I expect to see his defense continue to get better. A number of guys ahead of him on Vecenie’s list will likely not contribute beyond their ability to score, and that undercuts his complaint about Murray likely topping out at twenty ppg.

ManilaBayCleanerCrew
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May 10, 2023 6:13 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

And he’s been better as the season progresses. The team knows his upside and his drive to want to be better. I can see Mike Brown unlocking Keegan’s full potential this offseason. Lots of people will be eating crow about Keegan when the team fully utilize him next season.

rockbottom
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May 10, 2023 12:10 pm

This type of analyst is how the Jokic, Giannis, Butler, Booker et all are overlooked and dismissed for years .

TheGrantNapear
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May 10, 2023 12:16 pm

We won’t know the answer to who the best players from that draft will be until another two years. I always say judge players once they’ve completed three years in the league. With that being the case, who cares about rankings after year 1.
KM may develop into a combination of Tobias, Middleton and The Truth. KM may also not even be on the Kings next year if MM sees a deal he likes to improve the team immensely next season with the league seemingly wide open. So the KM homers may not even care about him come next season if he’s on another team.

aplumley
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May 10, 2023 12:48 pm

I don’t know where the idea that he doesn’t have upside come from. He has an elite skill and no glaring liabilities. Great length and solid athleticism. His upside is massive.

Roaddog
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May 12, 2023 9:00 am
Reply to  aplumley

What is it specifically you see as his upside?

aplumley
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May 12, 2023 1:18 pm
Reply to  Roaddog

Keegan Murray is a 6’8″ dude with a 6’11” wingspan and a 39 inch vert, a smooth outside shot, a decent mid range game, and good BBIQ. He’s a good player who has tons of room for improvement and time to improve.

He has potential to be an elite scorer. He already has the outside shot, he showed flashes of a mid range game and he has length and verticality to finish over people. If he fills out and compliments his outside shot with mid range and finishing over or through contact, he’ll be elite. That is unrealized potential = upside.

On the defensive end he showed the ability to switch and guard 1-4. He wasn’t elite, but with his length he can definitely become a plus to elite 3-D guy that can perform both on ball and as a gap disrupter.

He can definitely improve his rebounding. He was deferential at times and I think this is the main area where I see potential improvement. Assertiveness. If he starts asserting himself he’ll improve in every area of the game.

I guess, I see he has a lot of tools to work with, work ethic, an elite skill and no weaknesses to keep him off the floor. So he has tremendous upside.

If you look at the other guys they have ahead of him, why do we think they have more upside? Because Jaden Ivey can jump slightly higher even though he’s 4″ shorter? And Jeremy Sochan, what does he bring that makes them think he has a higher ceiling? Where is Shaedon Sharpe’s upside compared to Keegan? Just because he’s younger?

Roaddog
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May 12, 2023 8:27 pm
Reply to  aplumley

Thanks for responding, that’s great details. I wasn’t arguing for other people, just looking to see where you thought he would improve and you really fleshed it out

Last edited 1 year ago by Roaddog
Hobby916
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May 10, 2023 2:37 pm

Ceiling? Who knows. What I know is that he played well for the 3rd seed in the West almost all season, made adjustments as the season went on, and rarely seemed to get agitated when things didn’t go well.

Also confident he will grind and continue to improve. I am guessing that his “lack of athleticism” is what makes others question his upside (nonsense in my opinion).

Inthestarz
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May 10, 2023 2:47 pm

He didn’t exceed expectations, he didn’t hit them IMO.

expectations relative to his SL/Preseason showings in particular, but also for an older 4th pick.

given what he showed in sl/preseason, everyone was already ready to stamp him a borderline all star, but in his rookie year he was a sheepish relatively one dimensional player (hitting assisted threes while open a fair degree of the time). The rebounding, rim protection poor for a PF, so he will be pigeon holed at SF.

and what are the expectations of an older 4th pick? To be a solid role player seems a given

Want2win
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May 10, 2023 4:09 pm
Reply to  Inthestarz

Well that just reaffirms his talent because you are generally dead wrong about most players

Adamsite
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May 10, 2023 4:14 pm
Reply to  Inthestarz

He was a sheepish relatively one dimensional player (hitting assisted threes while open a fair degree of the time). The rebounding, rim protection poor for a PF.

He was 2nd in rebounds and was the team leader in blocks. A shot blocking PF that rebounds at a hight rate and hits 40% from three is almost non-existant. That kind of player is a GMs dream and ends up on all-nba teams.

Some fun facts: Keegan was 21st in 3pts shooting this year. Of the players ahead of him, only 5 averaged more rebounds (Horford, Curry, Hield, Kawhi, and Porter Jr.) and only 2 averaged more blocks (Horford and Patrick Williams). By that math there was only one player in the entire league that shot better, rebounded better and blocked shots better than Keegan…. Al Horford, a five time all-star with an all NBA and all defensive team section in 16 seasons.

If we are going to define Keegan as one dimensional, then we might as well call 90% of the league one dimensional.

Want2win
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May 10, 2023 5:30 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

But did he leave an imprint?

Want2win
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May 10, 2023 3:11 pm

I would say Keegan is top 3 rookie and will provably continue to be top 5 for the next 10 years.

one thing that surprised me is how often he was asked to guard shooting guards on the perimeter and held his own.

kids is a going to get a few all star nods

elfboy
May 11, 2023 9:09 am

Expectations redraft writers have:

Top 10 lottery pick? Gotta be franchise caliber player. Else, is a disappointment.

Team success, role, stats and health don’t matter. Only matters if the writer believes the player will earn that tag.

That’s why redrafts are a lazy way to produce content. No one can foresee the future, yet when you’re proven wrong, it’s been buried under so much other crap no one would bother to dig through to call you out.

The writer might be good at what he does. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t lazy.

Roaddog
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May 12, 2023 9:03 am
Reply to  elfboy

Picking 4th overall, franchise caliber player doesn’t feel like a big stretch from my expectations either.

alec26
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May 12, 2023 3:17 pm

Not sure that I buy the argument that every player is pretty much set at 22 whether they’ve spent the last three years in college or in the NBA. Players develop at different rates. Some (Hassan Whiteside) kick around the G league and Euroball for a few years before becoming mainline NBA players. Others (LeBron James) are stars in the making in 18. Do this redraft in 5 years and see where everyone is. Jrue Holliday just got named NBA teammate of the year. You could rank him number 2 now coming out of the 2009 draft, right after James Hardin.

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