The Sacramento Kings faced a conundrum heading into the 2022 NBA Draft. Purdue guard Jaden Ivey was widely seen as the fourth-best prospect, but he wasn’t especially eager to go to Sacramento, and with De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell already on the roster, they weren’t keen on taking another small guard.
Some thought they should just pick Ivey anyway and figure it out, while others thought a trade was the best route. Indeed, there was a stream of trade rumors in the days and hours leading up to the pick. But in the end, the Kings decided to keep it and once again buck consensus.
With the No. 4 overall pick, they selected Keegan Murray out of the University of Iowa. The 6-foot-8 forward was a tremendous college player, and there are few doubts that he can be an effective player in the league. Whether he’ll be good enough to justify being that high of a selection, however, remains to be seen.
The early signs, for what they’re worth, are exceedingly positive. Murray made his Kings debut on Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors in the California Classic — one of the mini Summer League tournaments ahead of the main event in Las Vegas later this month.
Murray was by far the best player on the floor, as he finished with 26 points and eight rebounds on 10-of-14 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point land in the Kings’ comfortable 86-68 win. That was good for a staggering 1.733 points per possession, per Synergy Sports.
“I knew that if the ball was in my hands we’d have a good chance of scoring or making a play for someone else,” Murray said after the game. “I just wanted to be the aggressor at all times.”
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He made some strong moves to the basket, in which he bullied smaller defenders, but the outside shooting was the most impressive aspect of his performance. In college, he went from 29.6 percent from 3-point land as a freshman to 39.8 percent as a sophomore. That leap was a big part of his success at Iowa and rise up the draft boards, and he’ll need to show that improvement was real. So far, so good.
One game in Summer League obviously only means so much, but it’s still a major positive to see Murray get off to a hot start — especially given that he was a somewhat contentious pick.