San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray will have a huge role in the team’s offense this season, but he must address the large elephant in the room.
Simply put: Can the 22-year-old University of Washington product develop a serviceable jump shot?
Already considered one of the best young defenders in the league, Murray will be tasked with a bigger role on the other end of the court now that the Spurs have reshaped their roster. Murray can expect more touches per game and a higher usage rate now that the team has lost Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
Nathan Kudla recently wrote about why Murray’s shot was significantly hindering his overall development as a scoring option for San Antonio (via Project Spurs):
“Last season, Murray’s offensive game was [limited] mostly due to his lack of a consistent jump shot. Defenders often went under screens, opting to give him open looks from mid-range to keep him from being able to successfully drive to the basket. And with the exception of a handful of games, this strategy was usually very effective in limiting his offensive role greatly.”
Murray was 48-for-146 (32.9 percent) on mid-range shots attempts last year. He averaged 0.67 points per possession on jump shots between 17 feet of the basket and the three-point line. This ranked No. 115 out of 129 players with at least 60 opportunities from this zone, per Synergy Sports.
He has fantastic length that helps him defend at a high level and pull in rebounds, and his impressive court vision allows him to distribute the ball effectively. With a more consistent jumper, the guard’s ceiling could be even higher.
If there’s one team that can help fix a broken jumper, it’s San Antonio. The Spurs have perhaps the best shooting coach in the business with Chip Engelland on their staff. Michael Shapiro wrote about how Murray could develop similarly to his former teammate Parker, who also had to work on his shot early in his NBA career (via Sports Illustrated):
“Murray has worked with legendary shooting coach Chip Engelland this offseason, aiming to rework his jumper from poor to passable. And if Murray can turn into a respectable shooter… it will unlock the more impressive aspects of his game. Murray’s ascent could mirror Parker’s if he can evolve from an early career non-shooter to a legitimate threat and build range as he grows in San Antonio.”
Head coach Gregg Popovich has noted that Murray has “come a long way” and he’s now entering his third season in the league. Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge has said that “anything is possible” in terms of his potential if the guard can get his mid-range shot down.
So far, Murray’s preseason has shown fruitful results and he is shooting 6-for-11 (54.5 percent) from mid-range. While it’s a small sample size, it is encouraging to see some progress in that aspect of his game.
Murray connected on only 29.1 percent of his attempts from beyond 10 feet last season. During his first two preseason games, he is already 7-for-14 (50.0 percent) from this area. If defenders have to account for him as a shooter, too, it will open up the floor for Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and the rest of the Spurs’ scorers.