Five reasons for Murray, Kings excitement after Summer League


Keegan Murray’s first month with the Kings couldn't have gone much better.

The No. 4 overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft showed out in seven exhibition games and was named MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League on Monday.

Murray displayed great poise and potential that has Kings fans champing at the bit to watch the Iowa product join De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis in Sacramento's quest to end its record 16-year playoff drought.

Here are five reasons for optimism after Murray's Summer League dominance:

Already rewriting narratives

In seven total Summer League games -- three in the California Classic at Chase Center in San Francisco and another four in Las Vegas -- Murray impressed with his scoring ability and averaged 21.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. He also drained 21-of-51 attempts from downtown -- a 41.2 percent clip -- and shot 50.5 percent from the field.

The biggest talking point following Sacramento’s selection of Murray on draft night was about his lack of superstar potential. Murray was looked upon as the most polished prospect towards the top of the draft but didn't have the ceiling of the consensus top-three choices or guard Jaden Ivey, who went to the Detroit Pistons one pick later at No. 5.

All it took was a handful of head-turning games for those storylines to quickly change. Last week, it was reported that some anonymous NBA scouts actually had Murray as their No. 2 prospect in the entire draft, putting his ceiling with the likes of Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren.

Murray clearly looks polished, but his scoring outburst in Summer League puts his ceiling at an exciting unknown heading into his first NBA season.

Rookie of the Year candidate

With the Summer League MVP already in the bag, we can officially launch the 2022-23 Rookie of the Year campaign for Murray. The three players drafted ahead of Murray -- Banchero, Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr. -- will be tough competition for the award as they'll likely occupy a bigger slice of the pie in their team's game plan than Murray on the Kings. But, hey, Murray easily outscored all of them in Summer League and dropped 29 points against Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder last week. He's capable.

Murray is wearing No. 13 with the Kings. The last Sacramento player to win Rookie of the Year? Tyreke Evans, who also wore the No. 13 jersey and was also the fourth pick of the draft in 2009.

Coincidence? ... Maybe not.

Veteran composure

It wasn't all a bundle of positivity for Murray in Summer League. He had one rough game -- a nine-point dud against the Miami Heat at Chase Center on July 3.

In 31 minutes, Murray made just 4-of-15 attempts from the field and missed all but one of his seven 3-point attempts. While the forward grabbed nine rebounds, he committed a game-high six turnovers and looked behind on defense at times.

That didn't bother Murray at all. After the game, he touted his confidence in his game, even when the shots aren't falling. 

"I never lose confidence," Murray told reporters. "Every shot I took tonight I thought it was going to go in. For me, I never lose confidence in myself and that’s a big thing."

Murray backed up his words by dropping 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers two days later. 

There are ups and downs for all first-year players in the NBA, and Murray appears to be more than capable to handle the rookie roller coaster.

Appetite for crunch time

Even while being praised, Murray's game is written off by some for being quiet or boring. He might not be throwing down tomahawk dunks on the fastbreak, but Murray showed he has got the confidence and poise to thrive in crunch time.

On July 9, the Kings were trailing by six points to the Orlando Magic with 7.4 seconds remaining in regulation. Neemias Queta knocked down a triple to make it a three-point game with 4.5 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Murray got his hands on a loose ball, backed up to the 3-point line and swished the triple to improbably tie the game before the buzzer.

So clutch.

RELATED: How Murray's summer league stats compare to draft's top three

Murray also took over down the stretch in the Kings' win over the Indiana Pacers on July 10, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter and eight in the final three minutes alone to secure the win.

The clutch gene is welcomed in Sacramento.

Role going forward

Perhaps the most exciting part about Murray’s summer performance is that he won’t be asked to carry such a heavy load in the regular season. The Kings’ offense will revolve around Fox and Sabonis, with Murray running the floor with those two, driving to the bucket and chipping in from outside along with Harrison Barnes, Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter.

To have such a polished, young piece at forward that fits in with the Fox-and-the-Ox duo and is capable to take over the scoring role when needed will serve the Kings well this upcoming season.

And yes, he has got plenty of star potential.

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