|Aaric Murray hugging an invisible fat person.|Aaric Murray
, Texas Southern, Senior, 6'10 245lbs2013/14 stats:
32.0 mpg, 21.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 1.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 2.6 fpg, 2.6 TOpg, 49.1% FG, 74.1% FT, 33.7% 3PT
The oft-travelled Murray wants badly to be a jumpshooter, a stretch five, a new age stretch big. He has wanted this at all three schools he attended, and played accordingly. He burned his way out of two of them due to off-court issues, but ultimately, that is not his biggest problem. Most people have a past. It is the future that we ought be concerned with.
The single biggest knock on Murray is effort, Put simply, there just isn't enough. He loafs on the glass - as evidenced by his rebounding numbers, so unnecessarily mediocre from one so physically superior at his level - and he can only really be seen to be working hard when trying to get himself a touch on offense (and looking dejected if he doesn't get one). Murray won the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year due to his size and shot blocking instincts combination that was unrivalled in the conference, not because he was an incredible or even especially interested defensive player. Murray does not consistently box out, play hard, deny the drive, move his feet enough, rotates quickly, get low enough, or push back onto those fighting him for rebounding or screening position. Essentially, he seems to be interested only in plays that seem to result in statistics. This includes allowing a driver to go past so that he can go for the blocked shot, rather than contest straight up and being content with merely making the shot more difficult. As ever, a shotblocker does not a good defender automatically make.
Offensively, Murray was obliged with a touch on almost every trip at Texas Southern. (Considering the great mismatch he was, why wouldn't he be?) He has good touch around the basket, a quality finisher against smaller opponents who works hard to get position moreso than he works at any part of the game. Defenders are forced to foul Murray because they cannot contain them (Murray averages nine free throw attempts a game), and even when the double and triple teams came, Murray could finish through them or get to the line, from where he is a good shooter. Murray is a powerful player at times and a finesse player at times, a real mismatch who can run the court, finish with power and athleticism, play the pick and pop, drive the ball to the basket with both hands and drop a nice right handed hook shot. Offensively, with his height, speed and decent athleticism, there is a lot to like.
There are of course problems with his offensive game - most notably, neither his jumpshot nor his handle (responsible for many of his turnovers) are as tight and refined as he treats them as being. He could also stand to gain more strength, do more screening off the ball when not getting a touch (and actually make contact with the defender on those he does set), and not look to score with every touch, something he will have to do as the standard of competition and of his teammates improve. Nevertheless, this season, Murray at least demonstrated a willingness to get inside regularly and dominate the paint, reducing if not eradicating the ambitious jumpshot attempts that still somewhat define him.
If Murray still wants to be a jumpshooter, that's fine. But he'll need to get better at them. And his offensive skills do not absolve him of his defensive responsibilities inside the paint. The amount of redemption stories written about him are heartwarming, and may well be true of his knack for off-court dramas, but on the court, Murray must show the same renewed commitment we are told he does off it.
Turning 25 this summer, now is the time. Last year was really the time, but now will do. To be a professional, he'll have to act like it.