Keegan Murray had an excellent rookie season. He started in 80 games, broke the rookie record for most three pointers made, and thrived in the back half of the playoff series against the Warriors. The excitement for his sophomore season was already at a fever pitch. But Keegan launched those expectations into orbit this summer after he thrived in the California Classic. In two games in the Classic, Keegan scored 41 points against the Heat and followed it up with 29 points against the Warriors.
The shot creation that Murray showcased at the Classic was a wholly different bag of tricks than we’d seen from him as a rookie. He hit pull-up shots off the dime, used on-ball screens to get extra room to take fadeaway shots, and—as he had many times in college—excelled at leading the fast break. And he did this while shooting 51.4% from the field and 45% from three in the two contests. It was just two Summer League games against fringe NBA players, but it wasn’t Murray beating the competition that was so exciting—it was how he did it. After a rookie season where he was a key factor in the offense as an off-the-ball mover and shooter next to De’Aaron Fox and Domas Sabonis, Keegan was showcasing his own on-the-ball growth in actual competitive games. After the Classic, he told reporters:
“I feel like a lot of the season I was just a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter. I want to be a guy that can get a basket if we need it. So just figuring out different ways I can score, different moves and at this point it is trial and error.”
While Keegan’s shooting ability and on-ball offensive growth are key for this season, so is his continued development on the other end of the court. Opponents loved to try and force switches and test the rookie on defense last year, and will continue to do so until he proves ready for the challenge. Keegan has always been a solid help defender, so hopefully the experience he gained last season and in the playoffs will help him be a more consistent, confident on-ball defender. Spending the offseason playing daily one-on-one games with De’Aaron Fox seems like a great way for Keegan to get used to guarding faster players.
The third big improvement I’m hoping to see from Keegan is on the boards. The Kings were 20th in the league for total rebounds last year, and cannot just rely on their rebounding champ in Sabonis if they want to stay strong in the strong Western Conference. We’ve already seen Keegan make a determined leap on the glass before; as Akis pointed out in his Season Review for Keegan, Murray averaged just 3.8 rebounds in his first 30 games, but after Mike Brown publicly asked Keegan to step up that effort, he snagged 5.2 a game the rest of the season. He was already their second leading rebounder last year, but continued determination and physicality on the glass from Keegan is key for both his and the team’s future.
So what will Keegan Murray’s sophomore season look like? Most of all, I’m hoping for the confidence he showed this summer to continue into the real games. There isn’t a quicker way for the Kings to blow the roof off their expectations than for Keegan to take the leap to the third best player on this roster.