What Do the New York Knicks Have in Toure' Murry?

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What Do the New York Knicks Have in Toure' Murry?
Associated Press
Toure' Murry has not received much playing time in his first season with the Knicks.

The New York Knicks will re-evaluate their entire roster after what has been a disastrous 2013-14 campaign. One of the few current Knicks who may be in the team's plans for the future is 24-year-old Toure' Murry.

Despite James Dolan's preference for New York to develop young talent, Murry, who spent the 2012-13 season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers after going undrafted out of Wichita State, has played just 292 minutes this season. And most of them came when the game was already decided. 

The 6'5'', 195-pound Murry is a combo guard who has played primarily point guard for New York. Knicks fans and journalists, including Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com and MSG Networks' Alan Hahn, have been clamoring for Murry all season.

Murry has a reputation as an excellent defender—one who should receive more playing time, as the Knicks point guards have struggled to keep opponents out of the paint. However, it was not until the team’s first- and second-string point guards, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, were injured in December and January that Mike Woodson gave the kid a shot.

Murry played over 20 minutes on one occasion and responded with 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, six assists and three steals in a Knicks loss to the Toronto Raptors on December 28. Once Felton was healthy, Murry was back on the bench. 

It is not clear whether the youngster's lack of playing time is a reflection on his ability or his coach's inclinations. Woodson has been reluctant to play rookies throughout his tenure as a head coach with the Atlanta Hawks and the Knicks. Yet, New York’s first-round pick in 2013, Tim Hardaway Jr., forced his way into the rotation and has averaged 30 minutes per game over his last 20 contests, via NBA.com (subscription required).

Chris Szagola/Associated Press
Hardaway Jr. has earned the confidence of Coach Woodson.

The first thing that jumps out about Murry's game is his defense. He uses his long reach and quick feet to crowd defenders, challenge shots and step into passing lanes. The rookie is averaging 1.8 steals per 36 minutes and defends the pick-and-roll better than any guard on the team not named Iman Shumpert. He is also an above-average rebounder for a guard, grabbing 4.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. 

It is Murry’s offensive limitations that have kept him out of the rotation. He has a solid handle, is quick off the bounce and attacks the basket, something the Knicks’ offense has lacked all season. His 3.5 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes ranks first among Knicks guards.

He has also produced an impressive highlight reel, consisting of exciting passes like the one to Hardaway seen below.

However, Murry’s shot is a concern. As seen in the chart below, via NBA.com (subscription required), he is shooting 43.4 percent from the field, but is just 1-of-7 from behind the arc and has connected on only 57.1 percent of his foul shots. He shot 36.7 percent from downtown in the D-League last year, though that appears to be an anomaly, as he knocked down 26.1 and 28.6 percent of his three-point attempts during his junior and senior seasons at Wichita State. 

Murry

Murry is quick, but he is not John Wall. Without the threat of the deep ball, defenders will go under pick-and-rolls and close off his driving lanes. 

Murry has delivered some nice passes in the paint, though it is not his natural instinct to set up teammates once he gets into the heart of a defense. According to SportVU, Murry is creating 14.5 points by assist per 48 minutes, which is on par with Charlotte Bobcats big man Josh McRoberts and well shy of most rotation-level point guards, via NBA.com. 

Murry pushes the ball up the floor, which is something the Knicks do not do enough of. New York's pace (the number of possessions a team uses per game) jumps from 92.77 when he is on the bench to 96.82 when he is on the court, per NBA.com (subscription required).  

The flip side of Murry's uptempo style is a 19.5 turnover percentage, which has resulted in an alarmingly low 1.44 assist-turnover ratio. That is in line with the 1.36 assist-turnover ratio he compiled in the D-League last year, which is unacceptable for a point guard who is neither an elite shooter nor scorer. By comparison, Felton and Prigioni have assist-turnover ratios of 2.73 and 4.30, respectively.

In fairness to Murry, his statistics are based on a relatively small sample size, and it is difficult to adjust to the NBA while playing sporadically with the second or third unit. If the Knicks fall out of the playoff race, he should receive a greater opportunity to show what he can do. It is also noteworthy that a player's shooting percentage and assist-turnover ratio typically increase over his first few seasons. 

Murry is already a capable NBA defender. Only time will tell whether he can develop into a strong enough shooter and/or playmaker to earn a spot in the Knicks’ rotation.

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