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Know the Prospect: Keegan Murray

Iowa’s offensive powerhouse and defensive demon is ready for the bright lights of the NBA.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 13 Big Ten Tournament - Iowa v Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This year’s winner of the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award might not be as physically dominant as King Karl yet, but Keegan Murray (6’8”, 225 lbs) of Iowa certainly deserved the award and made a compelling case to be called the best college hooper of the season.

The 21-year-old Hawkeye is a statistician’s bonanza. He led the Big Ten in total points (822), points per game (23.5), field goals (307), field goal attempts (554), win shares (8.7), plus/minus (15.7), and offensive rating (134.6). He was second in total rebounds (303), third in rebounds per game (8.7), true shooting percentage (64%), and block percentage (6.4); fifth in steals (45); plus yadda, and more yadda.

Enjoy these popcorn-worthy highlights:

If offense is your thing, note how the pride of Cedar Rapids shot 55% from the floor, 40% from deep, and 75% from the free throw line this season. Feeling any tingles yet?

If defense is more your bag, this humdinger has displayed excellent fundamentals and logged 1.3 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. His 6’11” wingspan is an advantage when shooting over average defenders, working the glass, and snagging outlet passes. He had two or more blocks in a game 20 times this season, culminating in a five-block game against Longwood in November. Imagine this dude joining Mitchell Robinson to form the MSG Swat Brigade. (It’s a working title.)

The skillful forward has a quick release to go with his serious range, and his impressive footspeed allows him to zip up and down the floor and slip around screens. He can sail coast-to-coast through traffic, dunk a put-back, and shoot from the outback. Of all the candidates in this year’s draft, he may be the most ready to hit an NBA court running.

If numbers tickle your fancy, here’s some more: the ambidextrous scorer recorded double-digit points in 34 of 35 games this season, logged 25 or more points 16 times, and had five 30+ games. He had a 21-rebound game against North Carolina Central back in November, and pulled down double-digit boards 10 times. And he’s capable of nuclear outbursts from deep, as evidenced by the Indiana game in which he shot 8-for-10 from the perimeter.

You may be wondering if he received any other accolades besides the Mailman’s medal. According to his Sports-Reference.com page:

  • 2020-21 Big Ten All-Freshman - 1st Team
  • 2021-22 All-Big Ten - 1st Team
  • 2021-22 Consensus All-America - 1st Team
  • 2021-22 Naismith Award Finalist
  • 2021-22 Wooden Award - Finalist
  • 2021-22 Wooden Award - National Ballot
  • 2022 All-Big Ten Tournament
  • 2022 Big Ten Tournament MVP

That’s a respectable mantle of honors for the young man who’s been compared to Obi Toppin, Michael Porter, Jr., and Pascal Siakam. Keegan is a tantalizing prospect, but naturally, certain aspects of his game need polish. His ball-handling can get sloppy, and he led the conference in turnover percentage, averaging about 5.7 turnovers per 100 plays. Furthermore, his passing needs some refinement before it’s considered pro-level.

He can also go cold from deep, shooting below 29% from Threeville in 14 games, so consistency is another development goal. Finally, if you’re an ageist, you might balk at the fact that he’ll be 22 by the start of the season and observe that RJ Barrett is only two months his senior. (But ageists are stupid gits.)

Here’s Murray beating up on Nebraska for 37 points:

Murray is projected to be selected in the top ten of this year’s draft and expected to be an impact player in the NBA. The New York Knicks A) are unlikely to get a top ten pick, but say your prayers for Tuesday’s lottery, and B) currently have two starting-caliber power-forwards on the roster. The skeptic says Murray is the epitome of a moot point where New York’s concerned.

Yet, team president Leon Rose is a man of mystery and guile. (OK, perhaps more mystery than guile...) If the big capo somehow arranges a Julius Randle trade AND secures a top ten pick, the Knicks could do worse than having Toppin and Keegan Murray as their power-forward options on opening day. Dim the lights and fantasize with me about those two galloping together in a small-ball line-up…. Sure, Thibs would forbid it, but my God, wouldn’t that electrify the Mecca?

Keegan is a confident kid who is not afraid to make the big play and could become a cold killer in the Association. Truth be told, I bet that he’ll be a Trail Blazer and perfectly paired with Jusuf Nurkić for the 2022-23 campaign, but I’ve been wrong once before.

For your parting treat, here’s a sweaty, sweeet-shooting Murray preparing for next week’s combine. Peace til next time.