Things we learned about Keegan Murray last season: He belongs in this league, he is an elite three-point shooter, has a bright future, and is very coachable and willing to learn. And after seeing him in the California Classic it is clear he has been working on some things since the Kings season ended.
Murray showed tremendous growth in his rookie campaign serving as a starter on a playoff squad full of veterans. He figured out how to complement Domantas Sabonis’ passing, serve as a knock down shooter beyond the arc, explode occasionally for a rim rattling dunk and come up with impressive blocks on the defensive side of the ball. Toward the end of the season, he began looking for his own shot more and turned up the aggressiveness, all at the encouragement of Mike Brown.
All combined, it led to quite the impressive 2022-23 highlight reel.
What is missing from the majority of that 20-minute reel is a lot of shot creation off the dribble on the perimeter. Most of Murray’s offense came as a result of quality passes from Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, aggressiveness around the rim, cutting, some downhill drives, catch-and-shoot threes and baskets made off screens.
“I feel like a lot of the season I was just a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter. I want to be a guy that can get a basket if we need it. So just figuring out different ways I can score, different moves and at this point it is trial and error,” Murray said.
In the California Classic, particularly in the game against the Miami Heat, in which he scored 41 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 blocks, Murray showed that he’s been working on adding a step back jumper and fade away, and it is a beautiful sight.
Here, he gets the defender back peddling by stopping on a dime. Then, he calmly takes a step back across the three point line for a quick release. Splash.
We saw Murray come off screens quite a bit last season for open shots. What we didn’t see a lot of was this quick step back with a slight fade away jumper. He looks so at ease with it.
The Kings set a double screen for Murray here. And he curls to the free throw line as his defender tries to catch up. As he stops for the shot, he uses a quick pump fake into a nifty fade away jumper.
Now, let’s talk about fast-break Keegan. We saw a few examples of him leading the break last season, but not a ton. Likely because, well, the team has Fox and Sabonis. But here we see he is definitely capable of doing it more.
He takes the ball up and selfishly (I say that jokingly because he is often not selfish enough on the floor) pulls up for a three in transition. Who is he, J Will?
A behind the back dribble to elude the dribble with a nice outlet pass to the corner for three.
And yes, we must place an asterisk next to all of this because he wasn’t playing against NBA-level starters here, but his fundamentals and basketball IQ should be able to take these new wrinkles to his game to the next level. And these flashes might indicate in the future he could be a focal point of an offense, which is something the team intended to use him as in the California Classic.
“I told him as many minutes as you play, I’m coming at you every time,” said Luke Loucks, who is coaching the Kings Summer League squad.
Even though he had 6 turnovers against the Heat it was fun seeing Murray as the central piece of the offense, and him embracing it.
We want more of this selfishness, Keegan!