- Programming note: Watch Kyle Draper's full interview with Monte McNair during “Kings Central: Offseason Review," airing Wednesday after "A's Postgame Live" on NBC Sports California
Monte McNair knows if the Kings want to take the next step as a serious Western Conference contender, Keegan Murray needs to make a leap in Year 2.
Speaking with NBC Sports California's Kyle Draper on the latest episode of “Kings Central: Offseason Review,” Sacramento's general manager explained why the team needs to "develop internally" in order to stake its claim as one of the Western Conference's powerhouses.
And it all starts with Murray.
"Obviously Keegan, top-five pick, great rookie year," McNair told Draper. "We know his growth is not linear, it's not always going to be upward. Who knows? There might be some sort of slump or mini-slump that he's going to fight through. Like I said, we saw that in the playoffs, he maybe didn't have the best games early on in that series, he figured it out."
Even if Murray does go through periods of inefficiency or gets overwhelmed, McNair knows the most important thing is the 22-year-old is learning to be a better player.
"So all we want is eventually that that arrow is pointing upward and that he's continuing to work because the sky's the limit for him and I think we've seen that in so many different areas, as I mentioned dating back to his college and his first year-plus here in the pros," McNair said. "And the more he can do for us on the court, the better it's going to be for us."
McNair and the rest of the Kings organization were impressed by the glimpses they saw in Murray's rookie season and his appearances in summer league, especially after Murray was challenged by coach Mike Brown to elevate his game.
"And so coach Brown challenged Keegan and said 'I want you to grow your game this summer and what they want you to do is play a couple games in summer league, where you could be the guy and I want you to go in transition and dunk on somebody,' " McNair recalled. " 'I want you to create off the dribble, I want you to take the end of the shot clock shots.'
"And Keegan being Keegan, he just comes out and drops 70+ in two games and says, 'Yeah coach, I got that.' "
Because of his demeanor and style of play, Murray has garnered comparisons to Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard. Paul George, Leonard's teammate, holds Murray's 3-point shooting in high regard as well, placing him in his personal top-five NBA shooters.
After averaging 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists along with breaking the record for most 3-pointers made by a rookie, the only direction for Murray's development is upward.
And McNair hopes Murray can take the next step, considering Sacramento's future playoff hopes are dependent on it.