The Sacramento Kings won all three of their games at the California Classic in San Francisco. It may seem like an arbitrary achievement, and in terms of the record itself, it kind of is, but beyond that, there are reasons that merit the excitement many fans are feeling as they look ahead.
Of course, regardless of the club, fanbases generally don’t invest much into the team record at this stage in the middle of the summer. What they do invest effort and interest in is keeping an eye on specific players that could make an impact on the final roster. That is to say they are interested in a player or two, typically a first round pick.
Such is the case for the Kings and their 4th overall pick in the draft, Keegan Murray.
In addition to the considerable acquisitions made last week that will look to enhance the team’s three-point shooting, Murray has been a notable component of why there is a swelling wave of optimism about this upcoming season among fans. And his performance at the California Classic is part of the reason why.
In three games, Murray averaged 19.7 points on 51.1% shooting, including 43.8% from beyond the arc, 8 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.
His initial performance was a statement to the league as he scored 26 points on 10 of 14 from the field and 4 of 5 from three-point distance.
Murray followed it up with a rougher performance–26.7% shooting, 1 of 7 from deep, and 6 turnovers–but in spite of his tough shooting day, he nevertheless displayed how he can avoid pressing, remain competitive, and impact the game in other ways.
In the third and final contest against the Lakers, Murray scored 24 points, hitting 9 of 16 looks, including 2 of 4 three’s, grabbed 7 boards, posted 3 steals and a block while committing just 2 turnovers.
Physically, as many already know, Murray is equipped with nice length and athleticism that make him a great asset at the NBA level. With it, he’s a versatile player, able to guard inside and out as well as capable of converting around the cup and from deep range. He’s far longer, and even stronger, than he is laterally quick relative to smaller players, though. Obviously he’s not a sloth, but Summer League head coach Jordi Fernandez made the calculation that the combo forward is “more of a 4/3 than a 3/4.” Overall, though, on the outside, Murray has tools that he can succeed with.
One of the immediate and tangible things he’ll provide for the Kings is three-point shooting as he shot 39.8% from beyond the arc in his final season in college and shot a few points higher than that in three games over these previous four days. However, what is particularly promising for his and Sacramento’s success next year is the fact he shoots so well off the catch and off of movement.
Murray has also shown his excellent intangibles, namely his sense of competitiveness. Based on effort alone, he’ll always have a chance in this league. It’s shown on the glass, especially in terms of offensive rebounds, which he had a pair of in each of the three games. And interestingly, that dedication to effort seemed to burst out of him when, after turning the ball over, he tracked down his opponent in transition and blocked his layup attempt.
In transition, he is a top-tier asset. Whether it be running, scoring, facilitating, or crashing the boards, Murray is practically an expert at it in transition. He glides from coast to coast seemingly without effort, able to convert near the rim and use his great vision to find the open guy.
Part of the reason he’s good at that aspect, and at a little bit of everything, is due to his feel and understanding of the game. He’s simply a smart player, aware and active at all times, which also explains how he can be so good at timing the perfect cut.
His ball handling could use some work, which was a fairly large reason he committed 6 turnovers against Miami, though they did show him a lot of pressure, too. As mentioned before, this will have time to improve without hindering his performance as a rookie given he’ll play mostly off-ball and thus won’t be forced to be the focal point of the offense, double team or not.
It’s only early July and a mere three Summer League games have been played, but Murray proved to be effective, offering a glimpse at what he’ll bring to the table when the regular season comes around.
As things come to a close in the Bay Area, there’s still more Summer League ball to be played in Vegas, which should feature plenty more opportunities to see Keegan Murray play. It’ll be there in the desert where the Kings will play next on July 9 against the Magic.