Every season, there is an NBA player who has a breakout season so noteworthy that he is awarded his first All-Star selection. A couple of seasons ago, Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans experienced an increase in productivity so profound that leaving him out of the All-Star game would’ve amounted to a robbery. This upcoming season, Dejounte Murray of the San Antonio Spurs is going to show the world why the organization selected him in the first round after just one season at the University of Washington.
Next season, the San Antonio Spurs will be playing with a totally revamped roster. The keys of the franchise will officially be in the hands of the team’s starting point guard. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons Dejounte Murray will be a first-time All-Star in 2022.
Dejounte Murray Will Be a First-Time All-Star
While players like Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons have proven that you don’t have to be a prolific scorer to make the All-Star team, points are still the best way to get the voters’ attention. Since he has come into the league, Dejounte Murray has increased his scoring every year. That trend should continue next season.
Last season, Murray averaged a career-best 15.7 points per game. Up until the All-Star break, he was still throwing the ball into the post so that LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the best mid-post players in the league, could go to work. Aldridge departed for the Brooklyn Nets after a mid-season buyout; DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay went to the Western Conference rivals Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz respectively this off-season. With three of the team’s primary options no longer in the picture, Murray will have to carry more of the scoring load. All indications are, he’s up for the task.
Murray’s most talked about highlight from last season was a thunderous, leaning dunk on the fast break at the AT&T Center in San Antonio against the Sacramento Kings. Veteran guard Buddy Hield can be seen ducking in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid being on the poster. While at 6’4″ and 180 lbs. Murray is known to throw down a nasty dunk from time to time, his skills as a passer often go unnoticed.
Just like his scoring, Dejounte Murray has improved his assists numbers every season of his NBA career. Last year he averaged 5.4 assists per game; very solid numbers for a point guard who needed to score in order for his team to have a chance to win. While he will still be asked to produce points next season, the absence of veterans like DeRozan and Gay will mean that Murray will also do more playmaking. Spurs fans can expect to see their point guard’s assists numbers go up yet again.
A guard who’s not afraid to rebound can increase his value exponentially. Oscar Robertson and Jason Kidd were notorious for grabbing more rebounds than their contemporaries who played the same position. Both men ultimately landed in the Hall of Fame.
While a comparison to legendary point guards of the past would certainly be premature, Murray does have a veteran example in the league today whose productivity he could aspire to match. Russell Westbrook, who was recently acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers, is arguably the best rebounding point guard in history. Murray will never come close to the outlandish amount of triple-doubles Westbrook has amassed over the years. However, he set a personal best with four triple-doubles last season. He also averaged a career-high 7.1 rebounds per game in the process. Murray’s rebounding prowess is just one more reason voters will be forced to send him to his first All-Star game next season.
Elite Perimeter Defender
Dejounte Murray is listed as 6’4″ and 180 lbs. Those are the exact same measurements as legendary Seattle Supersonics point guard, Gary Payton. Besides having an eerily similar build, Murray has something else in common with “The Glove,” he’s a lockdown defender when he makes up his mind to do so.
Last season, Murray averaged 1.5 steals per game, good for 11th in the NBA. The fact that he’s among the league leaders in steals year in and year out often goes unnoticed. However, Murray’s consistency in that department is just evidence of his overall defensive intelligence. He’s athletic enough to get into passing lanes and cause disruptions to the other team’s offense; he’s lengthy enough to give opposing point guards nightmares as they try to advance the ball up the court. He may not have made an All-Defensive team selection, but opposing coaches make sure their guards know he can be a pesky pick-pocket if they get too lackadaisical with the ball.
An inescapable part of the equation when considering All-Star candidates is team success. That being said, the San Antonio Spurs are highly unlikely to make the NBA Playoffs next season. However, they could earn a top-ten record in the Western Conference and be granted a chance to participate in the play-in tournament. The All-Star break will be too soon to be certain as to whether or not this happens. However, if the team looks tournament bound, it will work in Dejounte Murray’s favor.
The reason this scenario is possible is head coach Gregg Popovich. The San Antonio Spurs once boasted four Hall of Famers by the names of Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker. Eventually, each one of them became old and grey. Then a funny thing happened, Popovich continued getting the best out of his teams. The franchise hasn’t contended for an NBA championship since the retirement of Duncan and the departure of Kawhi Leonard. However, they’ve managed to put a respectable product on the floor every season.
Projections for Next Season
Keldon Johnson is returning to the team after winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics alongside Coach Popovich. That experience can only lead to an improvement in his game. Bryn Forbes is returning to the organization after a one-year absence. While he was away, he won an NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks. Lonnie Walker has yet to experience his full NBA potential but his upside as a big guard is tremendous. The team is incorporating wily veterans like Doug McDermott, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Thaddeus Young into the mix as well. The Spurs will be competitive and Dejounte Murray’s star will shine the brightest.
Years ago, Spurs fans knew they could count on their team to provide them with an exciting playoff run every season. Oftentimes, those trips deep into the postseason resulted in an NBA Finals appearance or an NBA championship. Those days are long gone. However, fans in San Antonio can take solace in the fact that their team is not irrelevant. They still have their legendary coach; and if their point guard plays his cards right, he’ll be a first-time All-Star next season.
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