How Will Trey Murphy III’s Absence Impact the Pelicans’ Offense?

Written by Ben Pfiefer

News of a left meniscus injury has left Trey Murphy III’s status to begin the 2023-24 NBA season up in the air. Immediately, Murphy’s absence could mark a significant hit to New Orleans’ offense. Ranked 20th by offensive rating last season, the returns of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram — appearing in a combined 74 games last season — should add instant juice on that end of the floor. Murphy’s spacing and burgeoning creation chops could force other Pelicans to fill in his offensive role.

Murphy is New Orleans’ clear best three-point shooter and spacer on a Pelicans team devoid of consistent long-range threats. At 40.6% on 6.3 attempts per game, Murphy routinely spots up multiple feet beyond the line, bending defenses to their breaking point and opening space for other Pelicans slashers.

More Than A Shooter

One of the league’s most well-rounded play finishers, Murphy adds elite finishing and cutting to his offensive arsenal — Murphy shot a smoking 75.9% from 0-3 feet last season. On a roster full of offensive players who are at their best with the ball in their hands, Murphy’s off-ball, secondary scoring presence provides a key release valve for Williamson, Ingram, McCollum and even Valanciunas on their scoring opportunities.

Shot-making scratches the surface of Murphy’s offensive value, but someone must replace his shooting in an offense hoping to progress this season. The only other high-volume shooter on the team last season was CJ McCollum, firing 7.2 threes per game. No other Pelican took more than four.

Who Gets Trey’s Shots?

Brandon Ingram is an obvious candidate to take a three-point volume leap; he’s been a sturdy shooter over his four seasons as a Pelican, hitting 37.5% of his 5.2 threes per game. The volume has dipped over the past two seasons, down to 3.6 last year, the lowest since Ingram played in Los Angeles.

More consistent three-point volume remains a key improvement point for Ingram to pressure defenses off of the ball and when pick-and-roll ballhandlers slip under his screens. Even if percentages drop slightly, a heavier three-point volume could help Ingram further open up his much-improved passing and slashing game, offering him another avenue to create easy buckets for his teammates.

Who else will carry the three-point burden for New Orleans? Rookie Jordan Hawkins is a high-level off-ball shooting prospect with stellar indicators (15.2 three-point attempts per 100 possessions at 38.8% 88.7% free throws) but he may lack the dribbling, physicality and defensive chops to bring positive value to the Pelicans in his first year. Jose Alvarado, Naji Marshall, Jonas Valanciunas, Herb Jones and Dyson Daniels all shot under 35% from deep last season. 

The Bright Side

Fortunately for New Orleans, the Pelicans’ coaching and development staff, spearheaded by Fred Vinson, have had success developing shooters over the last five years. A shooting leap from a younger Pelican like Daniels isn’t out of the question and would be a huge boon to the Pelicans’ offense next season.

Willie Green’s creative, multifaceted offense can also help remedy spacing issues, as New Orleans’ offense focus on decisive and continuous off-catch attacking can force defenses into rotation even without elite shooters.

Most significantly in the long-term, however, is the possible stunt to Murphy’s development time missed could cause. Once a pure off-ball wing, Murphy’s on-ball creation and handling game began to blossom in 2022-23. He drove with more pace and patience, weaponized his flexibility to score and made defenses pay for playing his lethal jumper.

Time will tell how many games Murphy will miss during the upcoming season. Regardless, his absence creates some extra difficulty for Willie Green’s offense without Murphy’s reliable complementary scoring presence.

For more of Ben’s breakdowns you can view his player profiles on the HITP Sports YouTube channel or at Ben’s own YouTube channel.


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