Dejounte Murray has faced a challenge but also an opportunity as he enters the 2021/22 season. DeMar DeRozan and the rest of the veterans were gone. Spurs were set to become his team, and how he fared in an expanded role would determine the trajectory of his career.
Needless to say, he was ready for the increased responsibility, as shown by his All-Star nod. Murray has improved in almost every aspect of his game while seemingly having untapped potential. Its rise has been so impressive that it might cause the front office to re-evaluate the timeline, which is good 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 age 25.
After being the second top scorer the previous year, he was expected to become the team’s first option in attack 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.
Murray had been filling in the stat sheets from the start, recording the first of his 13 triple-doubles for the season in just Game 4, but it took him a while to settle into the man of confidence role. San Antonio was competitive most nights, but a trend emerged early on: they just couldn’t close games. After years of relying on DeRozan to handle business late, the team often seemed lost on the stretch, and as the first option, all eyes were on Murray. Fortunately, the team and its best player have made progress in this area over the season, as shown by their 7-8 record in the clutch after the All-Star break. A few standout performances in the fourth quarter helped make Murray the closest, and while he wasn’t always up to the task, he was never shy about taking on the responsibility that role entails. It was a testament to his leadership skills, which hadn’t always been visible in the more veteran versions of the team.
Beyond those understandable growing pains in the clutch, Murray dazzled from the start. He took a leap as a goalscorer and creator that seemed unlikely a season before. While the three-point shot remained a relative weakness, his willingness to let it fly whenever it was open was a welcome sight. His rim finish remained strong after being a huge problem earlier in his career, while his midrange jumper remained lethal. As a designer for others, he wasn’t always flashy or forward, but he did a good job of organizing the team and finding the open man consistently.
All of those forces landed Murray in the All-Star Game, and he didn’t shine until after the trade that sent Derrick White to Boston and gave Murray even more touches. After the All-Star break, he averaged over 25 points while shooting 47% from the floor and reaching the line more than six times per game to help Spurs into the Qualifying Tournament.
Season Rating: A
The final games of the season weren’t great for Murray, who battled illness and couldn’t regain his form in time to help Spurs reach the playoffs, but there’s no denying he has been fantastic all year round. The numbers, which include league leadership in steals, are insane, but equally impressive was his ability to slowly step into the leadership role on the pitch and stay motivated even after getting the nod from the stars so to propel the end of the season. surge. There was a sense of urgency and a desire to seize the moment and step into the spotlight that characterized Murray’s year. His talent is evident, but his hunger is one of the main reasons to be excited about his future.
Unfortunately, the trade-off for the increase in attacking output has been a drop in defensive impact. While remaining a threat on that side at times, Murray’s attacking point defense took a step back. Opponents attacked him in the high pick-and-roll, and he often struggled to get back into the game. Other times, the league’s best ball handlers caught him off guard and the simply exceeded in isolation. It was unusual but completely understandable since he spent so much energy in attack.
Hopefully this offseason, through additions and/or internal development, the team will find ways to ease their shot-creating burden, so that the All-Defense Team version of Murray can make a comeback. . Spurs will need it if they intend to rebuild the defensive identity that was synonymous with their playoff streak.
Murray will enter the penultimate year with what has become one of the best contracts in the league. He’s eligible for an extension, but he’ll surely wait until he becomes a free agent and secures a max deal, which he should easily get if his game stays at last season’s level. Will it be with Spurs? It seems likely at this point, since he’s expressed his commitment to the franchise, but how this offseason plays out could affect his decision.
Murray will be 26 at the start of the 2022/23 season. He’s an All-Star now. He made the playoffs as a rotation player but never made it past the first round. He openly campaigned for Zach LaVine to be on the team. Dejounte is likely hoping for help to qualify for the playoffs and make a deep run next season. Are 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 resolutely pursue talent that can help now or, if their primary targets are unreachable, will they remain in asset acquisition mode? And how will he sit down with Dejounte if the latter arrives? It may seem early to worry about what Murray thinks, but he’s represented by a notoriously aggressive agency and will have leverage when his contract runs out.
There is a middle ground between moving forward and getting younger, of course. Even if Spurs don’t land a star, they can make veteran additions like the one they made with Doug McDermott to round out the roster, rely on internal growth and hope that’s enough to get them into the roster. playoffs. As long as they retain enough flexibility to pounce when a Murray running mate becomes available, they can still build a competitive enough squad to please him while focusing on their homegrown talent. There is a balance that can be achieved, and the front office has done a good job of walking a tightrope so far.
With Murray so good now that those questions are even worth asking, this is nothing short of a huge win for Spurs. They have a star entering his prime, which is always the hardest part. Threading the needle between continuing the youth movement and keeping him happy might be tough, but as far as issues go, it’s a good thing to have.
Keita Bates Diop
Lonnie Walker IV