Why do the 76ers have a puzzling lack of interest in Dejounte Murray?
Now that we’ve reached the December 15th marker of the season opening up the pool of players eligible for trades, it is time we revisit one player down in San Antonio receiving little buzz from the 76ers.
For those unfamiliar with who I’m talking about, it’s Dejounte Murray, a 6-foot-4 combo guard. Last summer there were some rumblings about a possible Ben Simmons trade with the Spurs and more recently, there was a report that said Ben Simmons would “welcome” the idea of playing for Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, which has me wondering why Daryl Morey hasn’t shown much interest in the former Washington Husky.
I totally get it, Morey has stated in the past to “buckle up” and continues to be adamant about not trading Ben Simmons for anything other an equal or greater value. Fine. It is however, hard to ignore what the 76ers are lacking without Ben Simmons.
While some may claim the Sixers highest priority is to replace Simmons’ defensive ability, I’d argue that isn’t a top priority. With one of the best defensive centers in the association in Joel Embiid and one of the best wing defenders off the bench in Matisse Thybulle, I think there are higher priorities.
Personally, nothing is more important than a guard that can score automatically from certain parts of the court. Especially with guys like Seth Curry and Danny Green, I don’t believe it has to be three point shooting either.
Past that, someone needs to add some playmaking ability that has been lacking on this team since Simmons began to sit out. Regardless of what you say about his personal offensive ineptitude, Simmons was an elite shot creator for his teammates and if that wasn’t obvious before it is clear now watching the Sixers without him.
So, to sum it up nicely with a neat little bow for the holiday season, the 76ers are looking for a score-first combo guard with a proven ability to facilitate for others. So far this season, Dejounte Murray fits that M.O almost to a tee, while still acting as a plus defender.
Dejounte Murray quite literally has shown improvement every season since he’s joined the league, and with that kind of curve who knows what heights he could reach on a team with title aspirations.
First, lets break down Dejounte Murray’s offensive ability to score at will. Currently Murray is averaging 18 points a game, which would be 3rd on the Sixers. While his volume of shots per game would certainly dip from the 17 he takes a game with the Spurs, there are spots on the floor Murray is absolutely lethal from. Murray came into the league as a defensive-first player with not great shooting splits. Since then he’s become one of the best mid range shooters in the league, hitting just about half his shots from 10-14 feet.
While his three point shooting is still lacking at around 34-percent, it isn’t going to be shot the 76ers need him to take. Combine his mid-range with his aggressive ability around the rim thanks to his 6-foot-4 stature, and you’ve got yourself a multi-level scorer that can take hits in the lane and still finish or hit half of his mid-range shots.
Not to mention, Dejounte Murray’s new and improved jumper he’s shown this season is one of the prettiest to watch in the league. I’m personally a sucker for high-arc shots that don’t ever touch rim, and his ability to fire off from a couple of spots on the floor with that type of jump shot is stellar.
For anyone thinking we’re losing a triple-double machine with anyone the 76ers trade Simmons for, keep in mind Dejounte Murray already has four so far this season. That puts him at fourth for triple-doubles so far this season ahead of guys like Lebron James and Luka Doncic. Thanks to Murray’s bigger size for a guard, he is currently averaging 8.4 rebounds a game. Tie that with his 8.3 assists per game, good for 6th best in the NBA currently, and you’ve got yourself a triple-double machine to replace Simmons.
Now if you disagree with my position on a suitable Simmons replacement needing to be defensively adept, keep in mind Dejounte Murray came into this league as a defensive-oriented guard. He played college ball at University of Washington, the home of the defensive guard prototype.
Just to sweeten his comp to the 76ers a bit more, keep in mind this guy is currently averaging two steals a game on the season, which is fourth best in the entire association. It might help he’s got a near 7-foot wingspan and weighs only 180-pounds, a perfect build for an on-ball nightmare guard.
Now if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself “Why wasn’t Daryl Morey all over the reported Spurs package featuring Murray earlier this year?” I wish I could answer that for you, because I am just as perplexed.
The Sixers definitely thought they could make things work with Ben Simmons. As we all know, that is no longer the case. From there, we were holding out hopes that Morey wanted to wait to see if a team would panic around mid-season and offer a kings ransom, which also doesn’t seem to be the case.
Now, I genuinely believe the 76ers don’t want Dejounte Murray, which is stupid.
Sure, his shooting splits aren’t on par with some of the best guards in the league, the current standard of return for Simmons in Morey’s eyes. Those splits are misleading, as he’s been shooting any shot he wants on a terrible Spurs team, and with his massive improvement so far in the league I don’t see why a package including him isn’t at least enticing for the 76ers.
Regardless, it looks as if the Spurs won’t be a trade partner for the 76ers anytime soon. Unfortunately.
Mandatory Credit: Logan Riely.