ADVERTISEMENT

Spurs player review: Dejounte Murray’s jump to stardom could accelerate San Antonio’s timeline

ADVERTISEMENT

Dejounte Murray faced a challenge but also an opportunity entering the 2021/22 season. DeMar DeRozan and the rest of the veterans were gone. The Spurs were about to become his team, and how he fared in a broader role would determine the trajectory of his career.

Needless to say, he was ready to take on more responsibility, as his All-Star endorsement shows. Murray improved on almost every aspect of his game while seemingly still having untapped potential. His rise was so impressive that it might cause the front office to reassess the timeline, which is nice but also scary.

Traits, Expected Role, and Stats

Dejounte Murray is a 6’4” point guard who entered his sixth year in the league at 25 years old.

ADVERTISEMENT

After being the second leading scorer the previous year, he was expected to become the team’s first offensive option and its best playmaker.

In 68 appearances, he averaged 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.2 assists in 34.8 minutes per game.

season review

Murray was filling the stat sheets early on, recording the first of his 13 triple-doubles for the season in just Game 4, but it took him a while to adjust to the go-to role. San Antonio was competitive most nights, but a trend emerged early on: They just couldn’t close out games. After years of relying on DeRozan to handle business late, the team often seemed lost down the stretch and, as a first choice, all eyes were on Murray. Fortunately, both the team and its best player made progress in that area as the season progressed, as his 7-8 record in the clutch after the All-Star break shows. Some standout fourth-quarter performances helped cement Murray as a closer, and while he didn’t always deliver, he never shied away from the responsibility that comes with the role. It was a testament to his leadership skills that hadn’t always been visible in older iterations of the team.

Beyond those understandable clutch growing pains, Murray dazzled from the start. He made a leap as a scorer and creator that seemed unlikely just a season before. While the 3-point shot remained a relative weakness, his willingness to let fly whenever he was open was a welcome sight. His finish at the rim was still good after being a huge problem earlier in his career, while his mid-range jump shot was still deadly. As a creator for others, he wasn’t always flashy or advanced, but he did a good job organizing the team and finding the open man consistently.

All of those strengths got Murray to the All-Star Game, and he only shone brighter after the trade that sent Derrick White to Boston and gave Murray even more touches. After the All-Star break, he averaged more than 25 points while shooting 47 percent from the field and reaching the lane more than six times a game to help the Spurs reach the play-in tournament.

Season Grade: A

The last few games of the season didn’t go well for Murray, who battled illness and couldn’t get back into form in time to help the Spurs reach the playoffs, but he was undeniably fantastic all year. The numbers, which include leading the league in steals, are insane, but equally impressive was his ability to slowly assume the leadership role on the floor and stay motivated even after receiving the All-Star nod to power through an All-Star finish. season. surge. There was a sense of urgency and a desire to seize the opportunity and be in the spotlight that characterized Murray’s year. His talent is obvious, but his hunger is one of the biggest reasons to be excited about his future.

Unfortunately, the trade-off for the increase in offensive production was a decrease in defensive impact. Although he remains a threat on that side at times, Murray’s attacking point defense took a step back. Opponents attacked him on the high pick-and-roll, and he often struggled to get back into the game. Other times, the best ball handlers in the league caught him flat-footed and just went through him in isolation. He was uncharacteristic but completely understandable since he expended so much energy on offense.

Hopefully this offseason, through additions and/or internal development, the team will find ways to ease its shot-creation load, so the All-Defense team version of Murray can return. The Spurs will need him if they are to rebuild the defensive identity that was synonymous with their playoff streak.

The future

Murray will enter the penultimate year with what has become one of the best-value contracts in the league. He’s eligible for an extension, but he’ll likely wait to become a free agent and pursue a max deal, which he should get easily if his game stays at the level it was last season. Will that be with the Spurs? It seems likely at this point, since he has expressed his commitment to the franchise, but how this offseason pans out could affect his decision.

Murray will be 26 when the 2022/23 season begins. He is now an All-Star. He made the playoffs as a rotation player, but never got past the first round. He openly campaigned to get Zach LaVine on the team. Dejounte probably hopes for help getting to the postseason and making a deep run as early as next season. Are the Spurs on the same timeline? We are about to see. San Antonio has additional draft picks and plenty of cap space. Will the front office aggressively search for talent that can help now, or, if their top goals are unattainable, will they remain in asset acquisition mode? And how will Dejounte sit if the latter happens? It may seem early to worry about what Murray thinks, but he’s represented by a notoriously aggressive agency and will have clout as his contract runs out.

Of course, there is a happy medium between going all in and getting younger. Even if the Spurs don’t get a star, they can make some veteran additions like they did with Doug McDermott to fill out the roster, rely on internal growth and hope that’s enough to get them to the playoffs. As long as they retain enough flexibility to jump in when a running mate for Murray becomes available, they can still build a team competitive enough to please him while focusing on their local talent. There is a balance that can be struck, and the front office has done a good job of walking the tightrope thus far.

For Murray to be so good now that these questions are worth asking is nothing short of a huge win for Spurs. They have a star coming into their prime, which is always the hardest part. Threading the needle between continuing the youth movement and keeping it happy might be tough, but as far as trouble goes, it’s nice to have.


player reviews

Jock Landale

Keita Bates-Diop

three jones

zach collins

joseph cousin

Lonnie Walker IV

Doug McDermott

joseph richardson

Devin Vassell

Jakob Poeltl

Keldon Johnson

sniloans