One NBA Analyst Thinks Former Hawkeye Can Win Rookie of the Year
Former Iowa Hawkeye Keegan Murray made history on June 24th, 2022, becoming the highest drafted native Iowan in the NBA Draft since Raef LaFrentz in 1998. LaFrentz was selected third overall. Murray was selected fourth overall by the Sacramento Kings.
Since then, Murray took the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League by storm, and one NBA analyst thinks he's the one who will win Rookie of the Year.
The Summer League affords NBA rookies and other fringe roster players the opportunity to refine their skills in the offseason. It also allows us fans to stay connected with the league during a famous "dead-time" for sports, when baseball is just about the only thing on TV.
Keegan Murray's standout performance was good enough to make him the Summer League MVP. During the multi-week competition, where stats are more noteworthy than the final score, Murray averaged the fourth-most points per game at 23.3 points. That was also the most amongst rookies. Murray managed an eye-popping 7.3 rebounds per game, as well as a proclivity for shooting (50% from the field).
Murray's performance managed to outshine #1 overall pick Paolo Banchero from Duke (who, admittedly, was shut down early by his team, the Orlando Magic) as well as Gonzaga's lanky, seven-footer Chet Holmgren.
NBA analyst Marc Spears thinks Murray is primed to be the NBA's Rookie of the Year this season. He's even taking his prediction a step further, claiming Murray will help lead the Kings to the playoffs. Spears said:
[Keegan] is going to be on a playoff team. The Kings are going to end [the playoff] streak…Keegan Murray is going to be your rookie of the year.
Almost every franchise has playoff hopes during the offseason, but Spears' prediction is especially bold. The Kings currently own the longest active playoff drought amongst the four major American sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL). The Kings have failed to qualify for the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons, the last time being in 2006.
Coming off a 30-52 campaign during the 2021-22 season, Sacramento is bolstered by a promising young core. Murray will presumably be sharing the court with Baylor's Davion Mitchell, who was the #9 pick in last year's draft, and De'Aaron Fox, who has been ascending for the last couple years. There's hope for the perpetually downtrodden franchise, but it's still a tough hurdle to clear.
The Kings are also no strangers to Summer League hype. Last year, Mitchell was the co-MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League. Murray's win gives Sacramento back-to-back MVPs. Should Mitchell take another step as a professional and Murray be just half as effective as he was for the Iowa Hawkeyes, it could very well be a memorable year for the one California basketball team that's been down on its luck over the better half of two decades.
According to Vegas Inside, Murray currently has the fifth best odds to win Rookie of the Year at +650. He's behind Orlando's Banchero, Oklahoma City's Holmgren, Houston's Jabari Smith, Jr, and the Pistons' Jaden Ivey, respectively. Murray's odds are a sneaky good bet.
I've had my eye on Murray since he was drafted by the Kings. My eye will remain on the standout prospect once the regular season commences. I don't think this is the last time we'll see Murray make waves.