The Knicks have been excellent since acquiring OG Anunoby, going 5-1 with a 16.9 Net Rating, but one area of weakness has been with their bench scoring. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the second unit has struggled to get points on the board with the loss of Immanuel Quickley, but the Knicks are going to need to address it in the next month. One of the names that the Knicks have been linked to frequently is Dejounte Murray, who has spent the last two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, and while he’s taken a step back defensively, perhaps he could rebound with New York.
Averaging 21.3 points a night while shooting 39.7% from three on six attempts, the 27-year-old guard has developed as a scorer and could help spark the Knicks’ offense. While he’s used to being a starter, the Knicks could best utilize him off the bench, but should they pull the trigger on a deal for him?
Filling a Hole on the Knicks’ Bench
Dejounte Murray is having his best shooting season, with a career-best in field goal percentage (47.3%), three-point percentage (39.7%), and true shooting percentage (57.1%). He isn’t the primary ballhandler in the Atlanta offense, with Trae Young as their star guard, and it’s an odd fit between the two that’s fallen short of expectations. The Hawks could look to move off of him. Murray is someone who has the shot creation and playmaking to give the Knicks’ bench exactly what they’re looking for from a scorer to run up points.
The defense hasn’t been as good as it’s been in years past, but alongside Quentin Grimes and Josh Hart, Murray would take on the third-hardest defensive assignments in any situation. Dejounte Murray ranks in the 96th Percentile in Matchup Difficulty, and with the Knicks, we would see that difficulty get down while also getting to run an offense off the bench that needs someone as ball-dominant as he could be. Murray ranks in the 86th Percentile in Shot Creation, and if he can create looks for other shooters on the floor, he also gives the team a chance to rest Jalen Brunson.
Miles McBride has held the fort down since becoming the Knicks’ backup point guard, hitting 50% of his attempts from downtown on 3.4 attempts a game, but the issue with McBride is that he struggles to run an offense and be a shot creator for other scorers on the team. He ranks in the 20th Percentile in Shot Creation, and if the Knicks are going to have a sixth man, they need somebody who is going to help with ball movement and get the offense going.
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At 6’5, Dejounte Murray has the physical skillset to help the Knicks defensively, who again have both Quentin Grimes and Josh Hart to handle tough defensive assignments, and it could give Miles McBride better looks from the perimeter as well. The Knicks didn’t extend him to a three-year $13 million extension just to let him collect DNPs, and he could fit excellently next to Murray with his ability to nail looks from three and play stout defense. It would also be just half a season of the former All-Star, so the price of acquisition doesn’t sound like it would be undoable.
Evan Fournier would be the obvious salary matcher for Dejounte Murray, and the Knicks could send a first-rounder and even a second-round pick or two to get the guard. His value could be greater in a situation that’s better suited for him; according to Estimated Plus Minus, Dejounte Murray (1.5) ranks in the 82nd Percentile, and his offensive value would serve New York well. That being said, there is one big question regarding Dejounte Murray and a potential fit with the Knicks’ current rotation.
It’s unclear whether Dejounte Murray would buy in as a sixth man in a lineup, knowing that he’s averaging 21.3 points a game in his walk year. While he could be more valuable, teams could hold his lack of scoring and bench role against him on the market, and there are teams like the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat who could value him as a starting point guard and boost his value through the roof if either team made a deep playoff run. That being said, Murray can’t choose who he gets traded to, but getting buy-in is important for making a strategy work.
For as much as people criticize Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks get buy-in from a lot of the players on their roster, and he has done a good job of establishing a clear pecking order in the organization. What he says goes, and players on the Knicks, for the most part, haven’t made a big deal of their disagreements with the head coach. Earlier this season, Josh Hart talked about his disagreements with his usage, and while Thibodeau followed it up with quotes that countered Hart’s, it didn’t escalate into a media nightmare.
Maybe Dejounte Murray doesn’t love the idea of coming off the bench, but filling the role left behind by Immanuel Quickley could cause him to get interest from smarter teams who know what he’s capable of. There’s a reason there’s a wide net of interest from teams on the market, and if the Knicks can get him to buy into a new role with the team, he could be the exact kind of player they’re looking for off of the bench.
He may not be the point guard that he was in his lone All-Star season with the Spurs, but if he can play the part the Knicks need in the second half, they might be able to shock some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference when the playoff roll around.