Is Trey Murphy III Just An Opportunity Away From Stardom?

For a Pelicans team in a state of transition, Trey Murphy will be a constant. The 23-year-old wing eviscerated teams as a shooter once again with incremental progression in other areas of his game. Murphy played just 57 games, marking his least healthy season yet.

Despite Murphy’s shooting slumps throughout the season, he still maintained strong scoring volume and efficiency — his 14.8 points on 61.8% true shooting were solid if not eye-popping. Murphy upped his three-point volume to a career-high 7.8 attempts per game on an elite 38%

Murphy shot the ball more audaciously than ever before, expanding his range deeper and deeper off of movement and off of the dribble. He warps the court more than most NBA shooters, pulling defenders out with his limitless range. Last season, Murphy took 68 jumpers off of the dribble on 78th percentile efficiency. This year, he upped his volume to 119 attempts on 83rd percentile efficiency all while shooting 36.3% on pull-up threes.

When Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and the other offensive stars sat, Murphy struggled to maintain control in a higher usage role. But he continued to excel as an off-ball scorer, leveraging his shotmaking into driving, cutting and playmaking. His pace and patience as a handler improved, better picking his spots to attack gaps in the defense. He’s still one of the league’s best finishers, making 72% of his shots at the basket.

Murphy grew on the defensive end of the floor, posting a career-best defensive estimated plus-minus (+0.4), adding to the Pelicans’ strong wing defensive rotation. While his on-ball defense isn’t always consistent, Murphy overwhelms ballhandlers with his fluid lateral movement, size and length. He protected the rim with more urgency this year, capitalizing on his frame to deter shots as a secondary paint defender.

Trey Murphy’s ceiling is one of the central questions for the Pelicans heading into the future. The team views Murphy as a franchise cornerstone given his distance sniping, off-ball scoring game and defensive chops. 

But can Murphy take another leap and develop into a true star? There are multiple star pathways for Trey — continuing to up his pull-up three volume would make him an unstoppable offensive force, along with improving his intermediate scoring game. Murphy becoming an All-Star level player would vault the Pelicans closer to contention. 

Analysis by Ben Pfeifer

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