Gauging the Philadelphia 76ers’ trade interest in Dejounte Murray

(Photo by Cameron Pollack/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cameron Pollack/Getty Images) /

What are the Philadelphia 76ers‘ biggest needs?

That feels like a pretty big question for a team sitting seventh in the East with a third of their players in COVID protocol, but when you avoid short-term issues and the fact that one of their three max contract players refuses to suit up in the good ole red, white, and blue, and when you evaluate the roster from a macro level, what is holding Philly back from reaching their true potential?

I’ve identified three big needs: a complementary point guard, a bigger two-way wing, and additional 3 point shooting.

That feels like a lot, right? At best, you’d need two more players to help alleviate those issues, and even then, those are expensive skills to be in need of. Assuming the Sixers want to retain as many future assets as possible to maintain star-chasing optionality, Daryl Morey has a very limited opportunity to actually get a deal done, as the team isn’t exactly rife with moveable contracts or surplus desirable players that opposing teams would like to land.

So naturally, more than a few fans have started to scour the league for potential Ben Simmons trade targets to make the most of this very weird season, and one name has been coming more and more with each passing month: Dejounte Murray. While the vocal interest in the sixth-year guard does make sense from a fan’s perceptive, as the University of Washington product is in the middle of his best professional season by a pretty wide margin, should the Philadelphia 76ers feel the same way?

How would Dejounte Murray fit with the Philadelphia 76ers?

Despite his size, measuring in at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, Dejounte Murray is a classic example of an NBA point guard.

Sure, he can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, even if his efficiency isn’t Seth Curry-esque, but Murray does the brunt of his damage driving to the hoop, draining change-of-pace mid-rangers, and, most crucially of all, facilitating the offense of his teammates as a floor general passer.

In 30 games of action so far this season, Murray is one of only five players in the association with 250 or more assists alongside Chris Paul, Trae Young, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, and is the only player among that quintet with 60 steals and at least 250 rebounds.

What? A point guard who is averaging more rebounds per game than the player they call Brodie? Color me intrigued.

Playing for a Spurs team without a single All-Star player – though that might change in the not too distant future – Muarry is San Antonio’s highest-usage player, even if his 25.3 rate only ranks 43rd overall league-wide. Still, despite having the most plays called for him of any player on Coach Popovich’s squad, Murray ranks seventh league-wide in assist percentage at a very impressive 37.0 and is the only backcourt player in the entire NBA with a rebounding percentage of 12 or higher.

Considering the Philadelphia 76ers’ current assist percentage leader is Joel Embiid at 22.9, Murray fills an obvious need on a team looking for easier ways to get the ball to the big fella in the paint.

With Murray in the fray, the Sixers would finally have a point guard capable of making the sort of special plays needed to make things easier for the offense to operate, with the added bonus of being a capable defender who can both remain on the court and switch across multiple positions in switching situations.

Give Embiid a passer like Murray, and he’d easily average five more points per game just based on the easier time he’d have getting involved on the offensive end of the court.

If Murray brought only positives to the table, he’d be a no-brainer trade acquisition in a package for Ben Simmons, as he can do a lot of the same things but with a more advanced offensive game, but there are some question marks about Matisse Thybulle‘s former teammate that might give the front office pause about his long-term fit with the team’s current core.

For example, Murray and Tyrese Maxey play the same position. While the duo could play off of each other and be fine on the defensive end of the court, neither are particularly good floor spacers and would ultimately make life harder for Embiid in the painted area. Granted, Doc Rivers could always stagger the two players’ minutes, giving Murray and Embiid a ton of run together and allowing Maxey to run a speed-centric unit solo, but when all three players are on the court for 30-plus minutes a night, they’d have to spend at least some time together.

Speaking of shooting, Murray isn’t particularly good at shooting from anywhere on the court, as he’s only making 44.6 percent of his 17 shots from the field, 34.7 percent of his four 3s per game, and 68.7 percent of his free throws. Compared to Simmons, Murray is a legit floor pacer, but when compared to the rest of the point guards in the NBA, he ranks 14th in total field goal percentage and 20th at 3 point shooting percentage, which isn’t horrible but certainly doesn’t rise to the level of perfect third star alongside Embiid and Maxey.

Now granted, could the Sixers offset Murray’s floor spacing with the addition of a shooter like Bryn Forbes, or ask for a wing player like Devin Vassell to help with the team’s overall lack of size, but would either of those sweeteners make for a better deal than simply targeting a different player entirely?

That, my friends, is the big question.

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Though there have been divergences from the typical formula, since Big 3s started being a thing in the modern-day NBA, teams have often tried to build a winner around a guard, a wing, and a big. Assuming the Philadelphia 76ers are set on Tyrese Maxey being their top guard indefinitely, conventional wisdom would suggest acquiring a big wing like Brandon Ingram to pair up with Joel Embiid in the frontcourt. With that being said, what if such a player isn’t available? In Dejounte Murray, the Sixers would alleviate a lot of their biggest issues but also limit their ceiling unless they secure another Maxey-esque steal in the draft or can trade Tobias Harris for a better-fitting forward. Barring a trade that doesn’t center around Ben Simmons or a surprise team that offers up a better-fitting forward as a sweetener, this hypothetical fit brings more questions than answers.