Murray Brings Both Upside And Risk To Pelicans

There’s plenty of buzz surrounding the Pelicans after acquiring Dejounte Murray. Many feel the former All-Star and potent scorer can add a new dynamic to the Pels that will ultimately deliver playoff success. Peeking under the hood reveals some possibly concerning aspects of the trade, though, namely Murray’s fit off of the ball and defensive limitations.

In Atlanta, Murray’s best play came on the ball, where he pounded the rock until he found a spot to rise up for a mid-range jumper or find a teammate. He wasn’t a super willing off-ball player, reluctant to move and cut proactively. That could become a problem for the Pelicans given their lack of excellent playmaking on the roster, especially outside of Zion Williamson.

Though Murray improved as a shooter last season, he’s still around average by NBA standards — 36.6% from three (51st percentile) and a three-point attempt rate (37.9%) below league average. He’s a solid catch and shooter but won’t rip threes off of the catch and New Orleans still doesn’t have enough consistent off-ball volume shooters on the perimeter.

Without the ball in his hands, Murray’s value decreases substantially. He looks to slot in as the starting point guard but Williamson and CJ McCollum will need their touches as well. The tea leaves indicate Brandon Ingram will not be a Pelican next season but if he is, Ingram’s mid-range heavy skillset could overlap with Murray and muddy the offensive flow.

Murray’s defense hasn’t been up to par over the last few seasons. He was an excellent defensive player in San Antonio, but it has been over a half-decade since he made an All-Defensive team. 

Murray may feel rejuvenated in New Orleans and wreck on defense with his elite hands and instincts, but New Orleans must prepare for the possibility that Murray continues to underwhelm defensively. If that’s the case, the Pelicans’ defense may regress. Williamson, McCollum, Murray, and potentially Ingram in the same lineup isn’t a recipe for defensive success on or off of the ball, and that will be exacerbated by New Orleans’ lack of a sturdy defensive center. 

To best utilize Murray’s skillset, the Pelicans probably need to trade Ingram for another defensive piece on the interior. That’s less likely though as some of Ingram’s potential suitors — Sacramento, Philly, Brooklyn — have gone in other directions. 

At the moment, New Orleans’ ceiling doesn’t feel meaningfully different than it did last season. Murray is a classic floor raiser: he thrives on bad teams but isn’t the creator or off-ball player to take great teams to new heights. If Murray’s defense and shooting aren’t up to expectations, the Pelicans could be looking at another early playoff exit next season. 

Analysis by Ben Pfeifer.

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One thought on “Murray Brings Both Upside And Risk To Pelicans

  1. Murray was a much better ball handler and defender in San Antonio, and the Atlanta teams he was on FORCED him into an off-ball role because of Trae Young and stretched him thinner defensively because of how poor they were. I think the worst case is somewhere between the two because his ball-handling can allow BI, Trey and CJ to lean into their catch-and-shoot abilities. All sorts of assumptions can be made, might as well lean positive.

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