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NBA - US Sports: Can Keegan Murray be a Sacramento Kings star?

Sacramento Kings rookie Keegan Murray was named the Summer League MVP after some exceptional performances in Las Vegas and will now look to make his mark in the NBA.

The Kings used their fourth overall pick to land the University of Iowa product in the 2022 NBA Draft in a move that was somewhat of a surprise at the time.

Sacramento could have opted for Jalen Ivey and then worked out a trade deal with Detroit - who selected the guard with the next pick - involving Murray, but instead they took no risks and went for the power forward.

Before the draft, Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr dominated the headlines and unsurprisingly they were the first three picks - but Murray announced himself as a truly exciting prospect in the Summer League.

Murray's college career in focus

In recent years, the majority of the top youngsters spend just one season in college basketball before declaring for the draft and that was the case for Banchero, Holmgren and Smith Jr with Duke, Gonzaga and Auburn respectively.

For Murray, he had two seasons with the Hawkeyes and in his freshman year the 21-year-old was a reserve player, starting just four of his 31 games - although he was still included in the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in 2021.

The Cedar Rapids native was promoted to regular starter last season and started all 35 of the games he was involved in, averaging 8.7 rebounds-per-game and 23.5 points - on over 50 per cent shooting.

Murray went on to be named in the All-Big Ten First Team last season, before being named the Big Ten Tournament MVP, although Iowa were then upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as they were dumped out by Richmond.

Does Murray have the attributes to be NBA success?

At 6' 8" and with impressive scoring stats, Murray could well develop into the type of two-way forward that has become much sought after in the NBA.

Murray has a solid jump shot and the confidence to take his chances from range, while he also has the physical strength and reach to be a threat around the rim.

One facet of his play that was particularly impressive during his sophomore year with the Hawkeyes was his ability to escape defenders to get clean inside and to draw contact to generate fouls - whether or not he will be able to do this at the very highest level remains to be seen, but his Summer League campaign suggests he should be able to.

With Iowa, Murray was the focal point of the team but that won't be the case with Sacramento, certainly not in his rookie season at least.

However, having played largely as a reserve in his first season in college basketball, he should be happy to play in a supporting role and adapting to different tactics.

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Will Murray be a regular starter for the Kings?

Murray joins a Sacramento team with what on paper looks to be a strong frontcourt and he will probably have to wait for his chance to force his way into the starting five, despite his Summer League heroics.

Two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis did operate largely as a forward with Indiana Pacers, but looks set to be the Kings starting center in the season ahead.

Richaun Holmes and Kevin Huerter will probably occupy the forward roles, with Harrison Barnes and Chimezie Metu providing further competition.

That doesn't mean Murray won't play significant minutes in the season ahead and the Kings will be keen to get him involved in the rotation, but he probably won't be a regular in the starting line-up either in his first season with the Kings.

Is Murray a potential Rookie of the Year contender?

Based on his college stats and achievements and his Summer League performances, Murray could well be in the running for the Rookie of the Year award, but he would need to establish himself as a Sacramento starter early on.

Scottie Barnes won the award last season as a regular starter for Toronto Raptors, while prior to that the likes of Ja Morant (2020), Luka Doncic (2019) and Ben Simmons (2018) were also regulars with their teams.

There are some exceptions - LaMelo Ball picked up the award in 2021 despite seeing his season cut short by injury and Malcolm Brogdon started roughly a third of his Milwaukee Bucks games in his debut campaign.

So it isn't out of the question that Murray could be a bench player and win the award, but with Banchero, Smith Jr and Holmgren likely to be instant starters he would be at a disadvantage.

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