Keegan Murray, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward, loves to grab and go. It was common for him at Iowa this past season after collecting a defensive rebound to storm down the court and navigate his way toward the basket for a coast-to-coast layup or dunk. There’s something very Kyle Kuzma-esque about Murray when the ball is in his hands in transition. Murray, who led all of Division I college basketball in points last season and finished second in the Big Ten in rebounds, looks very coordinated and fluid when dribbling up the court and attacking the hoop.
We don’t see too many players anymore play with their back to the basket, but that’s not the case for Murray, who has outstanding footwork and touch when operating down low. He goes to work quickly after receiving the entry pass, preventing opponents from getting the ball out of his hands. He has a knack for making shots from weird angles on the low block (made 73 percent of his shot attempts at the rim). There’s something Chris Bosh-esque about his movements, balance, and shot selection when he posts up or turns a face-up into a post-up. It remains to be seen, though, if at 6'8 this will translate at the next level or if he will get swallowed up in the paint against stronger competition.
Murray’s No. 1 weakness his freshman year with the Hawkeyes was 3-point shooting. Now, it’s one of his top strengths after making a 10-percent improvement from long range his sophomore campaign. In 2021-22, he shot just a shade under 40 percent from downtown on 166 attempts overall and 44 percent from the top of the key on 50 attempts, which is important because that’s where most pick-and-pop 3-pointers are taken.
Also a big deal is that he’s a legit two-way player. In the Big Ten in 2021-22, Murray logged the seventh-best defensive rating (96.8), the third-best block percentage (6.4), and the 13th-best steal percentage (2.3). Not only can he drop down into the paint and protect the rim, but he moves his feet well laterally and can stay attached to the ball handlers on the perimeter. Sometimes, however, he would gamble a bit too much when trying to come up with a deflection or steal on a pass.
Areas to Improve
Murray only averaged 1.5 assists this past season. The most assists he accumulated in a single game was four, and he did that just once (against Alabama State on Nov. 18). There were eight games, meanwhile, in which he didn’t record any assists, including against Nebraska on Feb 13 when he exploded for a season-best 37 points. Although he generally kept his turnovers in check, it seemed like nearly every time he got the ball – either on a post-up, off a cut, a spot-up or in transition – he was on a mission to score and didn’t really survey the floor.
Murray generally outplays opponents with length, finesse, and relentlessness (constantly moving) rather than with power, speed, or explosiveness. He’s not a good enough ball handler to create his own shot when facing up on the perimeter. In college, he often relied on a spin move to generate some space while hunting for a shot down low. Many times, it led to a quality shot, but occasionally, his loose handles and lack of a follow-up move resulted in a turnover or a forced shot while leaning into a defender.
Ceiling: Pascal Siakam (movement), Kyle Kuzma (transition offense/build), Tobias Harris (offensive versatility), and Chris Bosh (low-post game)
Others he’s like: Bobby Portis and Noah Vonleh
Position: Power Forward
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Strengths: Transition Offense: Low-Post Scoring/Footwork, 3-Point Shooting (spot-up and off movement), Rebounding, Defensive Versatility
Weaknesses: Playmaking, Facilitating, Ball Handling, Speed, Pull-Up Shooting, Age (will be 22 at start of next season)
College Roundup: Scored in double figures in 34 of the 35 games he appeared in with Iowa his sophomore season, including going for 30-plus points five times. Also recorded 10 double-doubles, including against North Carolina Central on Nov. 16 when he had 27 points and 21 rebounds. In 2022, he was named a consensus first-team All-American and earned both the Karl Malone Award (top collegiate power forward) and Big Ten Tournament MVP Award.
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