clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Keegan Murray wins December Rookie of the Month

Why the number four pick is starting to draw some eyes

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Guess who just won December’s Western Conference Rookie of the Month? Oh, just the guy many people thought the Sacramento Kings should pass over with the fourth pick. Not even halfway into his first NBA season, and Keegan Murray has shown he can live up to the hype.

Like most rookies, Murray has had his some down moments — including a slump where he shot just 3-for-22 from deep over a six-game span in November. However, he has had incredible moments as well. To go along with his impressive three-point shooting in December — 39-for-84 in total — Murray also continues to show signs of being a solid defender. He’s not the fastest or most athletic, but he has the right size, length and basketball IQ to have a big impact on the game.

Here are some of his top statlines and highlights from this past month:

  • Dec. 3 - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
  • Dec. 7 - 15 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 1 steal
  • Dec. 9 - 18 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal, 6-8 3PT
  • Dec. 16 - 20 points, 2 rebounds, 4-6 3PT
  • Dec. 21 - 23 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 6-12 3PT

Unlike the other rookies that rank among the league’s best this season, Murray is in a unique situation. He was not drafted to be the new face of the franchise, and he’s on a team with actual playoff aspirations unlike the Eastern Conference’s Rookie of the Month Paolo Banchero. Murray was drafted to be a role player with major upside and add some much needed depth to a revamped team. And that’s exactly what he’d doing.

He is not a primary ball handler, he isn’t the guy sitting in the paint to grab boards and he isn’t facilitating much at all. On offense, Murray is spacing the floor waiting for the ball to be kicked out to him or making a cut to basket when paint is open with Domantas Sabonis up top. On defense, he’s using his length to clog the passing lanes and stay vertical when guarding opposing wings. And he does it all with a blank, emotionless face.

But as much as the rookie has impressed, head coach Mike Brown is still looking to bring more out of him, like any good leader would.

Right now, Murray is a phenomenal shooter. Currently shooting 38.4 percent from deep, he is the second best volume shooter from three on the roster behind Kevin Huerter (42 percent). Brown wants Murray to step up his defense, rebounding and overall effort. The first two being Sacramento’s biggest problems. If he steps up to the challenge and makes it happen, Murray could take the mantle of third-best player on the team from either Huerter or Malik Monk.

The good news, I think both his defensive and rebounding abilities will improve during this season even without him making it a point to do so. As I said earlier, the season is still young and Murray is still adjusting to league play. The guys he’s going against are bigger, faster, stronger and simply better than probably 99.99 percent of the guys he faced while at Iowa. Just give him some more time, and by the end of the season Murray will be a more complete NBA player.

I don’t think he has a chance to win Rookie of the Year, simply because he is not in the right situation to show his value like some of his peers. However, I think he could win Rookie of the Month at least one more time and become an invaluable player for Sacramento. Murray joined the Kings at the perfect time. He has all the tools he needs to develop into the player we all hope he will be.