Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray (13) prepares to symbolically light the beam after a win against the Washington Wizards at Golden 1 Center.
The Sacramento Kings have had their fair share of ups and downs this season. There have been times when they’ve looked like legitimate title contenders building on the momentum of their breakout year last season. However, there have also been times when it has been very apparent that the Kings still have a lot of areas to improve upon. With the trade deadline less than a month away, the Kings find themselves in a spot where making a trade could be a make-or-break move for the progression of their team. Trading for a high-quality starter could make a huge difference for Sacramento, but the organization is also very particular about who they are willing and not willing to trade.
Keegan Murray is one of those few untouchables when it comes to trade talks for the Kings. Murray is just in his second season and has already shown superb upside in Sacramento. He has vastly improved his game in less than a year and is becoming a rising star in the league. For this reason, many teams are primarily requesting Murray trade talks, but the Kings seem set on keeping him in Sactown. There is a strong possibility that a star is in the making in Sacramento with Murray, and the Kings also appear to know that.
Keegan Murray Is a Star in the Making for the Sacramento Kings
Immediate Offensive Threat
Murray stormed right out of the gates, showcasing his offensive potential as soon as he entered the league. After being selected with the fourth overall pick by the Kings in the 2022 NBA draft, Murray made his presence felt immediately that summer. He made his Summer League debut for the Kings on July 2nd, 2022, against the Golden State Warriors. He put up 26 points and eight rebounds in an 86-68 win. That was just the start, as Murray went on to be named Summer League MVP, averaging 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 50% from the field and 40% from three.
Murray built on this immediate success throughout his first season with the Kings. He averaged 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in his rookie year on 45/41/77 shooting splits. He also set a new record for most three-pointers made in a season by a rookie in NBA history with 206. Murray was named to the 2023 NBA All-Rookie First Team for his stellar campaign.
In his sophomore season, Murray has taken another jump in his offensive game. So far in his second year, he is averaging 16.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game on 47/37/81 shooting splits. This season, Murray had a career game with 47 points on 12-of-15 shooting from three-point range, including a league-record 11 made three-pointers in a row, in a win over the Utah Jazz. Murray has become more aggressive, increasing his field goal and free throw attempts from his rookie season. He has also gotten more confident putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim. Murray has expanded his offense tremendously, and there is no reason to believe he will slow down anytime soon.
Vast Defensive Improvement
While many expected Murray to make huge strides offensively after his rookie year, his defensive ability was more uncertain. Last season, teams often targeted Murray on defense, most notably in the Kings’ playoff series last year against the Warriors. One point of emphasis for Golden State’s game plan against Sacramento was identifying and attacking their weak spots on defense. Often, one of those defensive liabilities was Murray. Going into his second season, many were unsure how Murray’s defensive ability would hold up and if it would become a point of concern for the young forward.
However, Murray has made some remarkable strides defensively this season. From being a point of attack for opposing offenses last season, Murray has become the primary defender at times, guarding the opposing team’s best players. He has substantially improved his lateral quickness, which allows him to switch onto guards at times with relative ease. He is also now better at navigating screens, providing weak-side help, and utilizing his length to disrupt ball handlers and force turnovers.
So far this season, Murray is averaging 1.2 steals per game and 1.1 defensive win shares. Murray’s on-off court stats help to show further the level of impact his defense has had. When he’s on the court, the Kings’ steal percentage increases to 8.1%, compared to 5.1% when he is off. When he is on the court, the Kings’ opponents possess an offensive rating of 115.6, compared to 119.7 when he is off. Overall, Murray is well on his way to becoming a great defensive wing, making him a potential two-way player with levels of potential still to be reached.
Last Word on Keegan Murray’s Rising Stardom
Murray has already become one of the most exciting young talents in the Kings’ history over just two seasons. His improvement offensively and defensively has been outstanding, and he is quickly becoming a high-level two-way player. Murray has many traits that can lead him to become an All-Star. On top of all this, Murray carries himself impeccably and is a great role model in the community.
This is the type of player the Kings want to keep around. The organization has a good feeling that Murray can become a star in this league, and it’s hard to deny that when looking at his body of work so far. If the Kings can continue surrounding Murray with a good system and supporting staff, the sky may be the limit for the young rising star in Sacramento.