Of all the individual accolades a player can earn in an NBA season, there is really only one player on the Sacramento Kings’ roster with a legitimate chance to take a piece of hardware home. That player is this year’s No. 4 overall pick, and Summer League MVP Keegan Murray.
Murray has impressed not only the Cowbell Kingdom since first taking the court in Las Vegas, but the entire NBA. He has shown how high his basketball IQ is, as well as his versatility on both offense and defense.
However, the most impressive thing about Murray so far is his how he’s bought in to the new winning culture Sacramento is trying to establish. His unselfish, team-first attitude is something that will almost certainly bring him success as a rookie.
“I think if we reach our team goals, individual goals will come,” Murray said in an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes during an appearance on the “Posted Up” podcast.
“I think if we reach our team goals and I play the way I know I can play, the individual goals will come. Rookie of the Year, first-team All-Rookie, whatever you want to say. I just want to focus on the team and I know winning will come with a lot of good things. That happened when I was at Iowa, so why not have it happen in the NBA?”
Currently, ESPN has Murray projected to finish fourth in the ROTY voting behind Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jaden Ivey.
The difference between Murray and the other three rookies is that he will not be his team’s featured player.
With the way Banchero has looked so far, he is already the best player on the Orlando Magic. Holmgren will likely not be the best player in Oklahoma City since they have a young star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But he can possibly be the second-best and help them win more games. Ivey is in the same situation as Holmgren and will be playing second fiddle to last year’s rookie sensation Cade Cunningham, though he will too help them win more games.
But what about Murray?
Although it’s likely, nobody knows if he will even be in the starting lineup. And if he is, he will at best be their third option. Yes, he will help the team get better and fill an important role on the roster, but he won’t shine as bright statistically as the rookies that will own the spotlight on their own struggling teams.
In order for Murray to make a legitimate run for the award, he will have to solidify himself as the third option on a playoff team. Helping to propel the Kings past the play-in tournament and into the postseason would be an accomplishment in its own right. But it would also be impressive enough to make up for his odds-on lower numbers.
The last Sacramento King to take home ROTY was Tyreke Evans in 2010. If Murray averages similar numbers to Evans — 20+ points, 5+ rebounds, and 5+ assists per game — that would almost certainly be enough to push the Kings into the playoffs and bring the hardware home to Sacramento. But only time will tell. Does he have what it takes?