Few Hawkeye fans were surprised when junior forward Kris Murray announced his intention to declare for the NBA draft on Friday. Murray had flirted with following his twin brother Keegan to the NBA a year ago before he had even earned a starting job with the Hawkeyes, but ultimately stayed in hopes of increasing his draft stock and becoming Iowa’s go-to star the following season. Murray was rewarded with his patience, earning first-team All-Big Ten and third-team All-American honors while becoming the only player in college basketball this season to average more than 20 points, seven rebounds, and one block per game while also making 65+ threes.
At first glance, it might seem easy to project how Kris Murray will fit in the NBA: just look at this brother. Keegan has been one of the most impactful rookies in his class, carving out a starting role on the first Sacramento Kings team to make the playoffs since 2006 and obliterating the rookie record for most three pointers in a season with 204 and counting. However, despite the similarities between their games, Kris is not just a left-handed-shooting version of his twin. Keegan is a more fluid athlete than Kris, but Kris has shown more aptitude as a playmaker. Keegan played with greater physicality when attacking the rim at Iowa, but Kris stood out due to his excellent cutting ability and skill at moving without the ball. While both brothers project as excellent three-and-D players, a closer look at Kris’ game shows that he is indeed his own player who deserves his own evaluation as a potential prospect.
Kris’ greatest strength as a potential NBA player is his ability to score from three levels. Murray is a crafty finisher in the interior, an underrated weapon in the midrange, and a capable scorer from deep. Murray particularly stands out as a catch-and-shoot player and projects as someone who can thrive as a floor-spacing wing or a pick-and-pop big when he slots in at the power forward spot. Murray likely won’t be called on to serve as a go-to scorer in the NBA, but the same skills that allowed him to play that role at Iowa will enable him to become a viable offensive option at the next level. One area in which Murray improved the most as a scorer last year was in his ability to get to the free throw line and finish through contact. While Kris did not play with quite the same level of physicality as his brother, he nearly doubled his free throw attempts last season (4.1 per game, up from 2.2 the year prior) while also improving his shooting percentage from the line from 64.5% to 72.9%.
Kris Murray projects as more than just a scorer at the next level, however. He is a solid rebounder who led his Hawkeye squad with 7.9 boards per game, and his ability to rebound well for his position will serve him well when matched up against small forwards in the NBA. Murray is also a versatile defender who can credibly switch on to smaller guards thanks to his length and foot speed, but can also wrestle with bigger opponents on the block when necessary. Murray was one of the few bright spots on defense for an Iowa team that was fatally deficient in that area last season, and while he may not develop into an All-Defensive Team player, he has the potential to be a legitimately impactful defender. At the very least, Kris should be able to guard well enough to avoid getting played off the court. Finally, Murray is an intelligent player who understands how to make winning basketball plays. He is an unselfish teammate who is willing to set screens, dive on the ground for a loose ball, and make the extra pass. These intangibles often show up the most in games in which Murray’s shot in not falling; he hit an abysmal 4-17 attempts from the field in Iowa’s win against Clemson, but still managed to impact the game by crashing the glass and playing lock-down defense on the other end of the court.
The best case for Murray’s potential as an NBA player can be seen in his game against Georgia Tech last season. Murray was far and away the best player on the court and flashed his upside in basically every facet of the game during his 31 point, 20 rebound, four assist, two block performance. While Kris will not be able to dominate like this at the next level, his ability to tap into the diverse set of skills he displayed in that game will serve him well in his NBA career.
Kris Murray of @IowaHoops is the only NBA, WNBA or Division I men's or women's player in the last 20 years to have...— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) November 30, 2022
4+ threes made
...all in the same game.
However, Murray does have some limitations which could hold him back at the professional level and impact his draft stock. While Murray has an excellent shooting stroke, he can be very streaky at times and can become too fixated on his jump shot at the expense of the other tools he has in his offensive arsenal. Murray’s three-point percentage actually dropped from 38.7% as a sophomore to 33.5% as a junior thanks to a few prolonged shooting slumps, including a five-game period in January-February in which he shot 23% from range, a 3-19 stretch in late February, and an 8-32 drought during Iowa’s three-game losing streak to end the season. If Murray is fated to be a three-and-D player at the next level, sustained three-point shooting slumps like this could seriously decrease his value. As strong a shooter as Murray is, he also is not great at creating his own shot off the dribble, which could reduce him to more of a complimentary scoring role. Finally, Kris tended to struggle against bigger, more athletic lineups, something which he will face far more regularly in the NBA than he did at Iowa.
However, it is Kris Murray’s age that might hurt his draft stock more than any other factors. Murray will be 23 years old by the time the 2023-24 NBA season starts, considerably older than almost every prospect who is viewed as a potential lottery pick. The year the Murray brothers spent at prep school before coming to college helped secure them scholarships to Iowa, but also factored against them during the NBA evaluation process. Many teams may look at Murray and see a player who has already maxed out his potential and find themselves drawn to prospects who, despite being less productive than him, could have a higher upside if they continue to develop. While Murray’s age will not impact how well he plays when he ultimately makes it to the NBA, it could end up depressing his draft stock a bit.
Kris Murray ultimately projects as a high-floor prospect with potential to be an impactful three-and-d wing from day one. His versatility on both ends of the court and ability to play both forward positions are highly sought-after qualities in the NBA, and his work ethic and team-first attitude will help him make a smooth transition from being “the guy” at Iowa to being an NBA role player. Murray is not a true offensive alpha, but he also won’t need to be when surrounded by professional talent, and should thrive as a complimentary scorer. Kris may not have the same upside as his brother, but he has the tools and mentality to carve out a lengthy NBA career, and there is no reason he is not capable of matching or even exceeding the numbers Keegan put up this season under the right circumstances. Expect to hear Kris Murray’s name called somewhere in the middle-late first round, with an outside chance of him being selected with one of the final lottery picks if a team falls in love with him during the pre-draft process.