Keegan Murray made doubters into believers in short order during his Sacramento Kings debut at the various Summer League stops.
Heading into the regular season, the question is how much of that carries over when he goes from mainly playing NBA hopefuls to playing some of the best players in the league on a nightly basis.
Coming into the draft, Murray was considered sort of a low-upside prospect who was sure to make an impact but unlikely to be a star.
In Summer League, though, Murray really showed way more than most thought he was capable of on offense. With an assortment of step-backs and off-the-dribble moves, Murray showed that his potential was largely being underrated coming into the draft.
Presumably, Murray slots in as a starting forward next to Harrison Barnes, although it is hard to predict what new Kings coach Mike Brown plans to do with the lineup. One issue with this assumed lineup is that neither Barnes nor Murray are quick enough to guard more prototypical small forwards, at least based on what we saw from Murray at Summer League.
But still, after years of only having Barnes and having to piece it together with other forwards, having another quality player at that size in Murray will be hugely beneficial to the team.
Regardless of what he’s asked to do, Keegan Murray slots in perfectly on Sacramento’s roster as a rookie and going forward.
Most highly touted rookies end up being a negative for their team in the first year, but I am not worried about that for Murray. His game feels very scalable. He might not get to cook with the ball in his hands as much as he did in the summer but, in theory, he should step into the league as a productive player simply due to his shooting at his size.
With Fox and Sabonis as players most effective with the ball, Murray can thrive in an off-ball role, spotting up and making off-ball cuts as he gets settled as a rookie. Getting to play next to as talented of a passer as Sabonis should provide Murray with several open looks a game.
Never too high, never too low. Murray plays the same way, regardless if he’s shooting 10 for 10 or 0 for 10, which should be a good trait for him to have once the rookie wall inevitably hits.
It’s going to be interesting to see where Murray slots in on the team’s hierarchy at the end of the season. Anywhere from being the team’s third-best player after Fox and Sabonis to being their seventh-best guy seems feasible for Murray.
I think Murray makes a respectable push for Rookie of the Year, but at the end of the day, a player like Paolo Banchero or Jaden Ivey ends up winning the award, having better traditional counting stats and more highlight plays.
Either way, Murray has already set the expectations high in the organization and the fanbase for a player that is expected to impact the game from day one.