Keegan Murray made history Thursday, becoming the highest Iowa basketball player ever to be selected in the NBA Draft.
Sacramento selected the former Hawkeye with the fourth overall pick in the draft, and before Murray could leave the stage in Brooklyn, draft analysts raved about the Kings’ move.
“Keegan Murray might have been the best overall player in the country last year on both ends of the floor,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas said on the network’s NBA Draft broadcast. “He went from a year ago averaging seven, eight points a game to averaging 24. I think he’s the most efficient player in this draft and the most NBA ready to plug in right now.”
Murray finds himself on a team looking for an established wing. The Kings have one in Iowa-native Harrison Barnes, but he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season. The same goes for Kings forwards Maurice Harkless, Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu.
So when ESPN’s Malika Andrews asked Kendrick Perkins what he thought of the pick. the former NBA player raved about how Murray fits alongside his new teammate, star point guard De’Aaron Fox.
“The Kings have shown us they’re committed to (Fox),” Perkins said. “He’s their franchise player. Why not add a wing? The wing is the most important position in the NBA. Think about it. The Golden State Warriors won because of Andrew Wiggins and the way he was able to play defensively and offensively.”
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Jay Bilas: Keegan Murray isn’t an ‘Instagram sensation’ but does everything right
Murray isn’t a flashy player by any means. Bilas did not see that as an issue ahead of the draft, and he’s not changing his mind now that he’s found his NBA home from him.
“He’s NBA-ready right now,” Bilas said. “His basketball IQ is tremendous. He’s very smart, got a great feel, makes really good reads and he pursues the ball. He’s not going to be an Instagram sensation, because he’s not a spectacular dunker and all that stuff — even though he dunks a lot — but he does the smart play every play, and he does it over and over again.”
Last season, Murray boasted the best defensive rating (96.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) and defensive win shares (2) out of his Hawkeye teammates.
“He’s got great hands,” Bilas said. “You mention the deflections he gets — he may not be the most dynamic guy standing in front of people, but he makes a great recovery. He’s always in the right position. He talks, he’s got everything. He’s not a spectacular athlete who’s going to jump off the page, but when you look at the page at the end of the game, he’s scratched every important category.”
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Keegan Murray draws a Pascal Siakam comparison from Kendrick Perkins
Perkins believes the Hawkeye star plays similarly to Pascal Siakam, a forward with the Toronto Raptors.
“He reminds me of a little bit of Pascal Siakam,” Perkins said. “He’s able to take advantage of guys when he’s got a mismatch. He has the size and length. He knows how to play his role at times. He plays off the ball well. He’s active with deflections on the defensive side, turning them into transition points. That’s what I like about Keegan Murray — his size, his athleticism along with his IQ and feel for the game.”
Siakam averaged 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals last season. He was an NBA all star in 2020, so the comparison is nothing to scoff at.
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Jon Rothstein: Keegan Murray is a ‘better version of Boris Diaw’
College basketball analyst Jon Rothstein posed an interesting question after the Kings took Murray with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
“The question remains: If Murray played for a blueblood program and not Iowa, would he be under consideration for a top-three pick in the NBA Draft?” Rothstein asked. “He went from 16 made threes to 66 from his freshman to sophomore year, and he had seven games last season with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Murray shot 40% from 3-point range last season and also proved, time and time again, that he’s capable of defense.
“Murray is somebody who will be an NBA starter and looks like a better version of Boris Diaw, when he shined under Mike D’Antoni with the Phoenix Suns.”
Diaw averaged 8.6 points and 4.4 rebounds for his NBA career, making 33.6% of his 3-point attempts. With the Suns in D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense, Diaw averaged more than 13 points a game in two seasons.
Eddie Johnson: ‘Murray is going to be fantastic out in Sacramento’
Murray was selected over Purdue’s Jayden Ivey on Thursday, another top player in the draft. Many analysts projected Ivey would land with Sacramento or go ahead of Murray, but the Big Ten star ended up being selected at No. 5 by the Detroit Pistons.
“This might work out well for both teams,” said ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla.
Ivey did not work out with the Kings this offseason, making it clear he didn’t want to end up in Sacramento.
Eddie Johnson, who played in the NBA for 17 years, believes it worked out for the best.
“I like the fact that a guy is open with a team and says, ‘Hey, I don’t want to go there,'” he said. “It allows that team to make a decision. Ivey wanted to stay in the Midwest, stay near his mom… I think Murray is going to be fantastic out in Sacramento. I think both teams win out.”
Read more about Keegan Murray and the 2022 NBA Draft
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism