This past week, Ben Simmons has been the name on Boston Celtics fans’ lips after a report surfaced claiming there was some interest in the Philadelphia 76ers point guard. However, with the price being cited as Jaylen Brown, we can all rest assured that any deal for Simmons is highly unlikely, and Brad Stevens told the Celtics All-Star wing as much.
However, Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report has another idea that would improve the Celtics’ size in the back-court while not costing the Celtics one of their star duo. Dejounte Murray is a name Celtics fans are familiar with after the team was briefly linked with him at the beginning of the summer, albeit due to a hypothetical trade. Yet, according to Buckley, the team should seriously kick the tires on the San Antonio Spurs’ commitment to their starting guard.
“While Murray has been good out of the gate, the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs might not be in a position to treat the 25-year-old as a centerpiece,” Buckley wrote.
The Athletic’s Zach Harper noted that Murray and Derrick White could be available for the right price in an article from July 2021. “The Spurs have to figure out where they want to be as a franchise and what their plan is moving forward. They’re kind of stuck in the middle right now. Murray and Derrick White could both be gettable, according to league sources,” Harper wrote.
Murray, at 6-foot-4, would provide the Celtics with the additional size they crave while ensuring the team’s core remains intact, as he doesn’t hold the same trade value as a player of Simmons caliber and reputation.
Murray Comes With Similar Limitations to Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart is a fearsome defender, above-average playmaker, and streaky scorer; Murray falls into similar categories. Any back-court pairing of Smart and Murray would be a spacing nightmare, as defenses wouldn’t respect their outside game enough to provide the Celtics with the requisite spacing the modern game demands.
Basketball-Reference has tracked Murray’s three-point shooting percentage as 33.1% on his career, and this season it’s slightly lower, at 31.9% on 3.9 attempts per game. Of course, when you’re discussing trading for Simmons, spacing isn’t part of your decision-making process, so odds are, trading for Murray wouldn’t be based on that factor either.
Like Simmons, Murray is a defensively capable guard with great size and length, and his offensive upside comes from his ability to penetrate and apply pressure to the rim. Cleaning The Glass has tracked Murray as scoring 64% of his looks within four feet of the rim. Still, unlike Simmons, the Washington native is also a respectable mid-range scorer, finishing 44% of his attempts and ranking him in the 78th percentile among guards this season.
Smart is also sitting in the mid-to-low ’40s from mid-range, yet his success around the rim is far below what Murray enjoys, primarily due to their difference in size. When looking at their assist numbers, Murray also projects to be a far greater facilitator than Smart, with 32.2% of his Spurs teammates made shots coming off a Murray assist, while only 17.6% of the Celtics made looks are courtesy of Smart.
Murray Would Be an Upgrade for Boston
Buckley’s idea of the Celtics exploring a trade for Murray is both realistic and intriguing. If the Celtics want a low-cost version of Simmons, with none of the baggage, and some additional scoring ability, they shouldn’t look much further than the Spurs guard.
The Celtics have begun to embrace the drive and kick game, as they rely on their corner shooters to provide their spacing due to the success of Grant Williams and Romeo Langford at improving their three-point shot. Murray’s ability to penetrate (he’s averaging 15.9 drives per game, per NBA Stats) and create for others off the dribble would be ideal for how Ime Udoka envisions his offense running.
Unfortunately, there’s no telling what the Spurs would want in return for Murray. However, it’s likely to be one-or-more of the Celtics younger contingent along with a draft pick or two, as the Spurs look to navigate their rebuild and return to relevancy in the Western Conference.
For now, the Celtics will continue to roll with Smart and Dennis Schroder as their point-guard rotation until a time that Murray, or a similar type of point guard, becomes available for genuine trade discussions.