Why Murray selection at No. 4 proves Kings' win-now mentality


SACRAMENTO -- The Kings are ready to win now.

General manager Monte McNair announced that mantra to the rest of the NBA at March’s deadline when he traded former first-round pick Tyrese Haliburton to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for 26-year-old Domantas Sabonis, a perfect pick-and-roll match for De’Aaron Fox.

He then added a new head coach in Mike Brown, who arrived to Thursday’s NBA draft exactly one week removed from conducting the Warriors' defense to its fourth NBA title in the last eight years.

And now, the Kings have a piece to coexist with McNair’s vision of the revamped roster in Keegan Murray, the fourth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Murray, a 6-foot-8 forward from Iowa with an estimated 6-11 wingspan, fills the most significant needs the Kings entered the offseason needing to address. He brings size, rebounding, impressive defensive instincts and outside shooting to Sacramento.

The Kings ranked 27th in defensive rating last season at 114.8 and finished 24th in 3-point percentage (34.4). Murray will help in both categories. A solid athlete, Murray will be able to run the floor with speedsters Fox and Davion Mitchell and create space for Fox and Sabonis, get the ball on the perimeter and either drive to the rack or knock down catch-and-shoot 3s.

The 21-year-old Murray wasn’t always regarded as a top NBA prospect. In fact, he was more of a late bloomer. Murray was lightly recruited out of high school and spent one year after graduation at DME Academy in Florida before committing to the hometown Hawkeyes.  

At Iowa, Murray’s college career didn’t immediately take off. Murray logged 7.2 points in 18 minutes per game as a freshman. But he made a gigantic leap as a sophomore, leading the Big Ten in scoring with 23.5 points per game -- the largest year-over-year increase in scoring average by a Big Ten player in the last 49 years.

He also found his shot, attempting nearly five 3-pointers per game and draining them at a 39.8 percent clip, up from 29.6 percent as a freshman.

Murray insists his improvements as a basketball player are far from over.

“Greatness takes time,” Murray told reporters after the draft. “I know that I have a long ways to go in my development as a basketball player. So for me, I’ll be the best version of myself when I get down there, and we’ll see what happens. I really think it’ll be good.”

Purdue guard Jaden Ivey was the choice many experts had pegged as the consensus choice at No. 4 behind Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr. Ivey, a combo guard, wouldn’t be a perfect match in Sacramento with a crowded backcourt featuring Fox and Davion Mitchell, but many believed he had the highest ceiling among available prospects to potentially develop into a superstar.

The Kings never hosted Ivey for a workout, and the guard confirmed he had limited contact with Sacramento during the draft process. Meanwhile, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Murray had dinner with stars Fox and Sabonis during his visit.

Sacramento clearly got its guy. But prepare for the Ivey-Murray comparisons just about every night over their first few seasons. Murray says bring it on.

RELATED: Experts hand out grades for Kings' selection of Murray

“I always have a chip on my shoulder,” Murray said. “Three years [ago], I was an unranked recruit going to Iowa. I’ll never forget that feeling. For me, I’ll always have that chip on my shoulder no matter what.”

Sure, the Kings might have favored fit over superstar potential at No. 4. While it’s possible the pick could eventually end up on a viral graphic featuring Sacramento’s biggest draft blunders, like taking Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic in 2018, it confirms McNair’s confidence in the Fox-and-the-Ox combination and the direction of the Kings.

McNair believes the roster is ready to finally snap a 16-year playoff drought.

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