With the 2021 Draft set for Thursday night at 8 pm, there are a number of Wahoos hoping to hear their name called as they move on to professional ball.
Most notably, Trey Murphy will more than likely be a first round pick as he’s made massive leaps up draft boards over the last few months. Originally expected to be a pick in the first half of the second-round with the potential to sneak into the late first, Murphy now sits in the 10-30 pick range as his high ceiling has attracted significant interest from teams with lottery picks on Thursday.
Considered to be a similar prospect both skillset and draft profile wise to former North Carolina wing Cam Johnson, Murphy’s appeal as such a high draft pick is his long term potential as the prototypical “3-and-D” NBA prospect with supreme athleticism and an elite shooting ability.
Obviously, with a higher draft range comes higher expectations as organizations will be counting on the former Rice transfer to develop his playmaking abilities to be a competent complementary player capable of attacking off the dribble when teams run him off the three-point line while also becoming an incredibly versatile defender capable of matching up against some of the most talented players in the world.
Now, teams will also understand that in Murphy they’re acquiring a piece who will need time to develop into the quality of player they’re spending such a high draft pick on. In terms of immediate contributions, Murphy ought to be able to provide spacing from the perimeter and sufficient on ball defense on slower guards and small forwards.
That necessary development — combined with his ability to contribute immediately — places Murphy in an interesting draft position. He’d almost be wasted on a title contender next season, but also wouldn’t fit well on a team not hoping to be competitive as he’d potentially be thrown into the fire too quickly.
With that along with his fairly seamless fit with just about any organization considering he boasts the two most valued traits in professional basketball — shooting and size — will place Murphy firmly in the first round and likely in the teens to the early twenties.
In terms of specific organizations that will be looking to add the former Wahoo to their roster, there are a handful of squads with both connections to Murphy and adequate motivation fit-wise to take him off the board Thursday night.
A rising power in the East with a number of intriguing and talented young players, the New York Knicks have been interested in Murphy for a while now. In fact, back in March I was told that the Knicks were willing to guarantee to pick Murphy in the second round if he fell to their pick at 32nd overall.
Since then his stock has skyrocketed to the degree that I’d wager that — as long as the Knicks sit where they are — it is unlikely Murphy falls past pick 21 considering that New York currently sits with the 19th and 21st picks along with the 32nd.
In terms of fit, Murphy could provide a much needed complementary playing style alongside a number of ball dominant players like Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett and help to space the floor for those two stars who look to do most of their damage on the inside as Barrett works as a slasher and Randle an inside scorer.
Picking 7th and 14th overall, Golden State may be Murphy’s best shot of landing in the lottery. It’s unlikely that the Warriors reach for him at seven, but he’s a realistic prospect for them at 14 considering what the team needs and what they value as an organization.
One can’t help but briefly relate Murphy to another Tony Bennett-coached sharpshooter currently on the Golden State roster. Obviously Murphy is no Klay Thompson and projects to be a different player. Yet his size and knock-down catch-and-shoot skills combined with his impeccable defensive fundamentals are reminiscent of a rawer Thompson.
Considering how much Golden State values shooting and their need to bolster the wing position with complementary support for Steph Curry, Murphy ought to fit well with the Warriors. They’re a team looking to get back to their championship window but aren’t too ridiculously desperate which should allow Murphy to provide contributions in the short term before blossoming in the years to come in an organization known for in-house development of shooters.
For years now it’s seemed inevitable that a Virginia player would be drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. There’s just something about the organization Greg Poppovich has built in Texas that resembles Tony Bennett’s program in Virginia with each coach’s adoration for level headed, high-IQ players who check off the boxes for all possible intangibles that makes former Wahoos and San Antonio a potential match made in heaven.
But, as of yet, any former Bennett players are yet to infiltrate the Spurs’ organization. In Trey Murphy, though, that perfect match may finally be made. San Antonio should be looking for help on the wing and considering the organization’s penchant for developing raw players over time, the Spurs ought to be confident in their ability to turn Murphy’s rough spots into the diamond potential he flashes.
Picking 12th overall, San Antonio is the most likely team to reach for Murphy. There’s always the possibility of a trade back if the Spurs want to juice the 12th pick for a bit more before selecting Murphy a bit later in the first. Either way, both sides would benefit from what feels like an inevitable pairing.
With the 15th pick overall, the Washington Wizards are another prime candidate to pick Murphy. In desperate need of a defender on the wing who can knock down shots in order to space the floor for Bradley Beal and Russel Westbrook, it’d be prudent for the Wizards to take a long look at Murphy if he’s still around when they’re on the clock.
Granted, there’s always potential that a more ready player falls to them at 15. But considering Murphy’s profile and pre draft workout with the team, Washington is yet another organization that could value the Durham native’s long term potential in its rebuild.
With picks 23 and 24, the Rockets are looking to attack their rebuild and have plenty of time to develop raw talents like Murphy into solid contributing pieces along with young stars like Kevin Porter Jr.
The Nuggets, picking 26th, could use some more shooting alongside stars Jamaal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Of note, Murphy is represented by the same agency — Excel Sports — as both Murray and Jokic and, in this business, that type of connection can carry weight especially if Murphy does fall to pick 26.
Then, with numerous first round picks for the next half decade, the Oklahoma City Thunder could be in the market for any high ceiling players in need of development — like Murphy. With picks 16 and 18 in the mid second round it’s a realistic possibility that the Thunder look to bring Murphy to OKC to join fellow former Wahoo Ty Jerome.