• Sudeep Tumma

Scouting Report: Keegan Murray Is an Instant-Impact Prospect

He was stuck behind a star-studded lineup last season, but he's showing what he's got this year.

IKeegan Murray is a prime example of a player benefiting from staying in college for one year versus scampering for the NBA draft.

Despite being ranked No. 334 on 247’s recruiting site, Murray landed on NBA radars after his freshman year. Last summer, many analysts even projected Murray to be a first-round pick in the 2022 draft.

That was after a season with averages of 7.2 points and 5.1 rebounds.

Now, that was expected on a stacked Iowa roster that included superstar Luka Garza, Joe Weiskamp and others. Still, Murray made an impression with his potential as a freshman and has dazzled as a sophmore.

This season, Murray’s stock has skyrocketed with premium averages of 22.4 points, 8.4 rebounds on 56.5% shooting.

He led the nation in scoring for a good part of the year.

Murray makes an impact in just about every facet of the game. His do-it-all game starts with his physical profile.

The 6-foot-8 Murray is a tad bit undersized, but he makes up for it with his physical tools. Perhaps his biggest improvement as a sophomore is his physical maturity. Murray put on 20 pounds to check in at 225, and it shows.

He’s got a 6-11 wingspan with a 36-inch vertical (in April 2020), but it is reportedly higher. By watching the tape, I wouldn’t doubt that.

Murray is an explosive leaper — he gets off the floor so quickly, which helps him on both sides of the ball. Then his straight-line speed is mesmerizing. He’s an easy accelerator who catches your eyes when he’s sprinting down the court.

The interesting thing about Murray is he doesn’t hit that vaunted 20-plus scoring mark as most stars do. While he certainly possesses gobs of talent, it’s Murray’s motor that allows him to thrive.

In transition, Murray habitually darts down the court at full speed and receives passes from his teammates for easy baskets. It’s almost uncomprehensive. Defenders will be in perfect position but will fall asleep momentarily and let Murray run past them. It just comes down to effort.

He also moves really well without the ball. In Iowa’s motion offense, Murray has such a great feel for the game and instinctually cuts to the basket. With his aforementioned burst, he gets a step on his defender for more easy baskets.

Once again with the effort theme, Murray gobbles 2.9 offensive rebounds a game. He’s always crashing the glass and battling for boards. With his motor and anticipation, Murray plucks the ball out of the air and gets those fruitful putbacks.

As the overall numbers suggest, Murray is a hard-nosed rebounder on the defensive side as well. He doesn’t just rely on his vertical/length, Murray sticks his body in, boxes his man out and grabs boards.

The three things I just mentioned are all effort plays. Sometimes basketball is that simple, but it takes the right mindset to do it.

But as I said, Murray has bonafide talent. That starts with his 3-point stroke. It’s primarily generated off catch-and-shoot looks, but he shoots 34.5% on a healthy 4.6 attempts. He’s got solid, not amazing shooting mechanics. Whether that’s as a floor spacer or off pick-and-pop looks, Murray is capable of hitting contested looks.

The percentage does need to be tightened up though.

Then from there, he can attack downhill and score at the rim. On dribble drives from the perimeter, Murray doesn’t typically beat his man cleanly off the dribble, rather he gets a step and uses body leverage to attack angles and finish through contact. He’s patient, has great body control and employs ball fakes, rarely forcing up a bad shot

Which speaks to his IQ once again.

Murray has flashed upside as a mid-range shooter off the dribble, but it certainly needs to be polished up. The attempts look clean, but they aren’t hitting just yet.

He’s typically trying to get downhill, even when he’s in the low post. Murray has a great face-up game where he can hit you with the drop step, spin move, step-through or rip move. Murray utilizes body leverage/athleticism/physicality/footwork to attack defenders.

Murray operates so well in traffic and has excellent hands. He’s got a soft touch around the rim and appears comfortable finishing with either hand.

He leans more on physical tools over skill to a degree at this point, but it’s the IQ that allows him to attain such high-quality looks.

Iowa does run some post-ups for Murray, but so many of his looks come off improvised looks. Again, in the motion offense, Murray instinctually posts up, but I love how cerebrally he does it.

Murray will wait until help defenders clear an area, instantly get position on his defender, open opportunities for duck-ins or clean post-ups.

He does his work before he gets the ball.

So once the pass gets lobbed in, Murray takes it, hits one power dribble and is already at the rim.

If it’s not that clean, he’ll go to work and use all the aforementioned physical tools/moves to score at the rim.

Now, is that approach going to work in the NBA against bigger/faster/stronger defenders? Probably not. But those instincts are invaluable and will show up in so many places.

Which should pump the brakes a bit on thinking his gaudy scoring production will immediately translate to stardom out of the gates. Still, the tools are there to develop around.

Murray offers a bunch as an scoring threat, but his playmaking skills are still a work in progress. He’s not the best passer, and it’s a valid area of improvement.

His ball-handling is certainly a plus though. While he’s by no means elite in that category, he’s got a solid handle, and Iowa trusts him to push the break off of rebounds. The coast-to-coast ability is legit.

Then Murray’s defense sincerly adds to his appeal.

He’s a versatile defender who can switch matchups and guard perimeter players. He’s got good lateral quickness to stick and his length aids him in those situations. And he’s got the strength to guard in the post.

His ability as a weakside help defender in rotations is remarkable. Murray stays locked in with his off-ball defense, playing some ball-denial, having good positioning and displaying outstanding defensive awareness.

He reads passing lanes well, which leads to the 1.5 steals average. Then he displays a strong prowess to slide over as the help defender and swat away shots. He’s a true rim protector with 2.1 blocks per game. Murray should see minutes as a small-ball 5 at the next level.

With all of that, it’s easy to see how Murray’s versatile, do-it-all game is so enticing for NBA teams. He’s a guy you don’t ever need to run a play for but will still make an impact.

He’s got all the ability to be a high-end role player off the bat with star potential within reach.

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