“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Keegan Murray is a 21-year-old forward from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who averaged 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.2 combined steals and blocks per game in his sophomore season for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He is expected to be selected among the top-10 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft and as high as No. 4 overall. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 5.
There are a lot of metrics and categories NBA scouts and front offices use to evaluate prospects, but I like MPPG the best.
What is MPPG, you ask? It stands for “minutes per playoff game.” Could the prospect in question eventually see actual meaningful playing time in a playoff game? If so, how quickly could it happen?
Most rookies don’t make significant playoff contributions for obvious reasons, but Keegan Murray is the rare prospect who might be able to impact winning at the highest level from day one.
Murray is a do-it-all jumbo wing with no glaring holes in his game on either end of the floor. Offensively, he is a highly skilled player who can consistently knock down spot-up jumpers (not just corner 3s, but above-the-break 3s, too) and handle it well enough to attack closeouts and make a play for himself or others. He is far too big and skilled for defenders at the college level. He finished fourth in all of college hoops in points per game (23.5 ppg) and needed less than 16 shots per game to get there.
He made a dramatic leap in production and efficiency between his freshman and sophomore seasons. He improved his 3pt% by 10 full points and nearly tripled his attempts per game, which is nearly unheard of.
Defensively, Murray is a long, strong, and athletic go-getter who provides ample rim protection (1.9 blocks per game) and perimeter disruption (1.3 steals per game). Murray’s defensive ceiling is even more intriguing than his offensive skillset. In time, Murray could find himself on the bubble of the All-Defense conversation.
Coaches at the next level will fall in love with Murray, mainly because he rarely makes mistakes and always plays within himself. If the jumper is real, Murray could bring a similar skillset to Khris Middleton’s for a lucky mid-lottery team.
On a scale from 1-10, Murray’s NBA-ready game rates at a 9.5.
Murray turns 22 in August. He is a full year older than Anthony Edwards. Murray is six weeks younger than Zion Williamson, who was drafted three years ago.
This doesn’t mean Murray is done developing – far from it. It does mean, however, that he is closer to a finished product than many of the prospects surrounding his name in the lottery.
Judging older college prospects can be a tricky business. How much of Murray’s success as a sophomore is due to his overwhelming physical/mental maturity compared to his competition? Murray showed much of the same shotblocking/rebounding instincts in limited minuets as a freshman, but he was a much worse shooter from all three levels.
He isn’t a court-wrecking athletic menace or an above-the-rim vertical threat, either. Much of Murray’s defensive success has come from his positioning and savvy. If he is a half-step slower at the NBA level, it could have a dramatic impact on his defensive capabilities.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Murray’s age relative to his draft class is an 8.5.
Murray enjoyed a successful and productive high school career in Iowa, but he never quite popped on the national recruiting radar, despite a move to DME Academy in Florida for his senior year. Unlike many of his lottery peers, Murray didn’t field offers from every power program or generate interest from the G League. Rivals.com rated him 3 stars and he eagerly accepted a scholarship offer from his home school (University of Iowa).
He spent his freshman year contributing as a glue guy behind the Luke Garza/Joe Wieskamp-led Hawkeyes and showed occasional flashes of star power in being named to the Big Ten Conference’s All-Freshman Team.
No college player (other than fellow Big Ten stud Johnny Davis) showed more improvement between the 2020-2021 season and the 2021-2022 season.
Murray leapt at the chance to assume the leadership role and started the season with six consecutive 20-point games. He scored in double digits in every game except one. He was among the NCAA’s most consistent stat-sheet-stuffers and earned consensus All-American honors. Even though Iowa’s season came to a premature end after an upset loss to the No. 12-seed Richmond Spiders in the NCAA Tournament, Murray’s sophomore campaign went better than anyone could reasonably expect, especially when you consider where Murray’s name sat in the 2020 recruiting lists.
On a scale from 1-10, Murray’s pre-NBA career rates at a 9.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Murray is a plug-and-play prospect. Every team needs a flexible, versatile, defensive-minded wing.
The Sacramento Kings, picking fourth, have needed young legs at the wing position for years. They also desperately need a winning player who enjoys playing defense. Murray makes too much sense for them, so look for the Kings to pass on him for another guard.
My personal favorite landing spot for Murray is in New Orleans. The Pelicans put together a truly inspiring late-season run and gave the Phoenix Suns all they could handle in the opening round of the playoffs. Imagine Herb Jones and Murray taking turns terrorizing opposing ball handlers and blocking 3-point attempts. Imagine Murray spotting up around Point Zion (should he ever return). Murray might not last until pick No. 8 (especially with the frontcourt-depleted Portland Trailblazers picking ahead of them), but if he does, the Pelicans would eagerly snatch him up.
Speaking of Portland, the Blazers have reportedly put that No. 7 pick on the market in an attempt to secure a running mate for Damian Lillard. Could a team like Utah move into that spot and take Murray?
On a scale from 1-10, Murray’s situational independence rates at a 9.5. Murray can play anywhere.