In a process which had Iowa Hawkeye fans waiting until the last possible day, Kris Murray announced his return to Iowa City earlier this afternoon.
For Kris, he becomes the de facto fill-in for twin Keegan as a starter and will likely have lofty outside expectations because of the jump his brother made between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Anybody expecting a beat-for-beat repeat of Keegan’s 2021-22 season, should receive a stern talking to but it’s well within the range of possibilities to see Kris’ points-per-game double as his minutes (6th on the team) & usage (2nd - $) increase.
His ability to play the either forward spot and as a stretch five gives Fran eases some depth concerns which allows Josh Ogundele & Riley Mulvey to stave off a full baptism by fire for another season.
It is a bit of a risk for Murray to return, as he will be held to his brother’s standard by both fans and NBA draftniks. He crept into the second round of many 2022 NBA player rankings (The Athletic’s for one) and was tantalizing as a potential selection since NBA teams could project a portion of Keegan’s improvement into a lottery guy onto Kris despite the current second round rating. But if he doesn’t live up to the hype which now surrounds his return (currently 22nd, according to NBA Draft Room), perhaps he sees first round dreams slide away.
For 2022, the biggest area for improvement is consistency. Can he stay on the floor aftere being the rotation player who had the highest foul rate (KenPom)? Will his ability around the rim improve (47th percentile according to Synergy Sports)?
Some of this should be sorted by more time at power forward. If he’s able to improve in his consistency, then the “WOW” questions Keegan answered - turning defensive rebounds into transition buckets, getting baskets at critical moments in games, showing different layers game after game, sneaky great athleticism - will determine just how high Kris can fly.
His return is a boon for the Hawks, as Fran has his own high expectations - “Kris will be awesome next year.” He also said, “everyone in our program is excited to have Kris back.”
Count us among those excited.