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2021 NBA Draft Coverage: Trey Murphy III

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A lengthy sharpshooter with some potential defensive upside

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Syracuse v Virginia Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Trey Murphy III is a sharp-shooting small forward that will likely start as a shooting guard in the NBA, with the length of a power forward. While that description might bring up thoughts of early-career Paul George or Robert Covington, Murphy is likely closer to the mold of Duncan Robinson, Danny Green, or Doug McDermott - a pure shooter with a bigger body.

A lot of this is likely due to his insane growth spurt, where he grew 4 inches between junior year and senior year of high school, and another six inches in college, where he last played as a redshirt junior. This rapid growth has led him to be wiry and lanky, but with some guard upside unusual for a guy his size.

On that note, scouts really liked his performance in the combine, where he was not only able to show off his stellar shooting but also his defensive utility, leading him to be described as a top 3&D prospect and rocketing up the draft boards, where he now sits around the 26th spot. So how could he potentially fit with the Jazz?

Stats

Per game: 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, 50.3% FG, 43.3% 3PT, 92.7% FT

Advanced: 67.0% True Shooting, 8.4 BPM (6.0 offensive, 2.4 defensive), 0.189 win shares per 40

Physical: 21 years old (turns 22 next June), 6’9” with a 7’0” wingspan and 8’9.5” standing reach, 206 pounds at the combine

Strengths

Trey’s primary strength that will immediately translate is his already NBA-range shooting. In his last season at Virginia, he averaged far north of 40% from three and backed it up with a stellar 93% rate from the free throw line - the only college player to have a coveted 50-40-90 season this year. In that season, he averaged 1.75 points per possession on four catch and shoot possessions per game, which is absolutely stellar.

Additionally, he showed good instincts as a cutter and in transition, going up for big dunks when the opportunity arose. All in all, Virginia didn’t ask him to do too much on the offensive end other than finish plays, and he unselfishly did not overstep that role, a good sign for a young player. His desire to transfer to a tougher program (Rice to Virginia) and give up his role as the number one option speaks volumes to his desire to get better and take on more competition.

Defensively, Murphy has the length and coordination to be a menace guarding 1 through 4. With Sam Hauser and Jay Huff manning the big men spots, Murphy was often tasked with guarding perimeter players, and succeeded in closing out on shooters, bottling up drives, and fighting through screens. While the NBA’s guard and wing rotations are at another level, scouts were clearly pleased with his defensive versatility at the combine.

All in all, at his absolute peak, Trey Murphy could potentially develop into a Paul George-lite type player with less creation ability, or at least the aforementioned comparisons of Duncan Robinson or Doug McDermott.

Weaknesses

Trey spent most of his offensive possessions as a catch-and-shoot or cutting threat, with around 60% of his shot attempts coming from such opportunities (source), which allowed his efficiency to be great, but obviously required someone to create for him. Furthermore, very few of his catch and shoot attempts came off of movement a la Robinson, Korver, or Klay Thompson. When driving, especially when forced to settle for a jump shot, Trey’s relatively weak handle and inability to creatively finish creates a limit on his upside. At the NBA level, his strong preference for driving left, despite being right handed, will absolutely limit his effectiveness. This all together means that Trey tends to play quite upright, unable to finish through contact or attack closeouts very well.

Defensively, Trey did very well on the perimeter, but there are serious questions if he can defend the 4 or even bulkier threes. With a relatively weak upper body and being light for his size, he showed signs of struggle against stronger players even in college. While that will likely be alright as he will almost certainly start out as a shooting guard in the NBA, for him to reach his full 3&D potential, he’ll need to bulk up and show the ability to defend 4s while retaining his switchability. Furthermore, Murphy’s rebounding numbers were quite bad (3.4 per game), even with him playing on the perimeter often, which likely harkens back to his days as a guard. While I don’t think it’s a lack of effort on his part, he has not developed those instincts much, which may raise some concerns.

Jazz Fit

Murphy’s current abilities screams of Georges Niang with less bulk and more switchability. His shooting immediately translates and could fit into Quin’s swirling advantage system, and he has the length to adapt to a wing-defending role, perhaps in the style of Mo Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, or Robert Covington. As a “big”, he’s not a rebounder, which would compound the Jazz’s issues of rebounding outside of Rudy, but he could grow into that role over time.

Does he make the team much better or add a different dimension? No. Is that needed? In my opinion, yes, if the Jazz are to become a more well-rounded team that can adjust to opponents instead of trying to double or triple down on the team’s own strengths. Murphy III would still be a good pick if he’s available, but I think there’s others out there that may be better fits at the 30th pick.