The Trail Blazers’ forgettable 2021-22 season is in the books and it is time to turn our attention to the 2022 NBA Draft. Unlike recent years, Portland possess multiple picks in this year’s process. After finishing the regular season with a 27-55 record, the Blazers enter the lottery draw with the sixth-best odds in the NBA. Buoyed by those odds, the Blazers are poised to exit the draft with the rights to a marquee prospect.
Today’s profile looks at Iowa forward Keegan Murray. During his second year with the Hawkeyes, Murray blossomed into one of the best offensive players in the country.
- Height: 6’8”
- WT: 225
- Wingspan: 6’11”
- Shooting Hand: Right
- Position: PF
- Age: 21
- Projected draft range: 4-8
- PTS: 23.5 | Per 40: 29.5
- REB: 8.7 | Per 40: 10.9
- BLK: 1.9 | Per 40: 2.4
- STL: 1.3 | Per 40: 1.6
- FG%: 55.4
- 3P%: 39.8
- FT%: 74.7
Murray versatile skillset dominated the offensive end of the court this year. From the open floor to half-court sets, he proved that he is one of the most effective scorers in the country. In transition, Murray is agile and corrals outlet passes with his long arms. Once he gains possession, he is a threat to complete a highlight finish at the rim.
Murray’s half-court offense displays his full range of NBA potential. In pick-and-roll sets, he makes himself a big target for ball handlers when diving to the basket. Inside the arc, Murray finished 62.1 percent of his attempts. Buoyed by an effective spin move, he consistently keeps his opponent off balance when moving downhill. When that move is stymied, Murray has reliable step-back shot to lean on.
Murray’s pick-and-pop game is just as impressive. Once the screen is set, he quickly pivots into position for three-point attempts. Murray’s three-point arsenal is not limited to just pick-and-pop looks, though. He has an excellent understanding of space. He has shown that he can generate open looks off the dribble and by moving without the ball through screen actions. Overall, Murray’s shot form is built on a fluid and reliable foundation. From pull-up shots to catch-and-shoot looks, his footwork is consistent.
Defensively, Murray is a high-motor player that is constantly seeking highlight opportunities. He was a constant disrupter for the Hawkeyes this past season. Outside of generating turnovers, Murray is comfortable guarding opponents in multiple areas. He held his own against traditional and stretch frontcourt players throughout his sophomore season.
Murray boasted a multi-faceted offensive attack in the college game. At the next level, he could be forced into a more perimeter-oriented role. According to KenPom, Murray’s two-point field goal percentage drops from 62.1 percent to 50.4 percent when facing top-tier opponents. When facing quality opponents, his post spin move and deliberate driving style becomes predictable.
Defensively, Murray’s gambling style can lead to massive errors. He lacks the burst to make up ground against elite forwards. That deficiency is also present when he is forced to switch on to athletic guards on the perimeter. Murray’s straight-line speed is not an issue, but his lack of top-end lateral mobility was exposed in certain matchups.
2022 Forward Prospects
|Player||Overall 2P%||2P% vs. KenPom's Tier A|
|Player||Overall 2P%||2P% vs. KenPom's Tier A|
Murray stepped into the void left behind by the departure of Luka Garza and delivered in a big way for the Hawkeyes. With Murray leading the way, Iowa finished the year with a 26-10 record, earning them a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, Murray’s tournament run ended before it had a chance to get rolling. Richmond bounced Iowa in the opening round with a 67-63 upset victory.
Individually, Murray set the standard for all players in the country on the offensive end. He led the nation in scoring and finished second in the Big Ten in rebounding. Murray finished the season with First-Team Consensus All-American honors. He also earned the Big Ten Tournament MVP award.
Murray is without a doubt a top level forward option with an outside game that should translate to the next level. If he adapts to the level of NBA competition, he has the footwork and instincts at the rim to blossom into dependable roll man. Defensively, he does enough to rise above the “liability” label. His discipline should improve with experience, but that will most likely lead to a decrease in steals and blocks.
Looking forward, Murray is one of the oldest prospects in the lottery discussion. He is only 14 months younger than upcoming Blazers restricted free agent Anfernee Simons. With that in mind, Murray’s upside looks better equipped to raise a team’s floor, not its ceiling.
Murray ticks two important boxes for the Blazers. First, he plays at a clear position of need. Second, he has proven he can generate a positive impact without dominating possessions. While Murray’s ceiling isn’t as enticing as other options in this range, his scoring prowess gives the Blazers plenty of flexibility when it comes to roster construction. He is an attractive frontcourt option for both Damian Lillard and Simons.
The Blazers have searched for a player like Murray in trades and free agency. Depending on how the board falls, the Blazers could be in position to secure Murray on a controlled contract for the immediate future.