A sampling of national-media reaction after Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray were drafted in the first round of the NBA draft last week.
The Huskies were well represented at last week’s NBA draft.
With Marquese Chriss going No. 8 to the Suns (after getting drafted by the Kings) and Dejounte Murray going 29th to the Spurs, UW had two first-round draft choices for the first time since 2012.
Kentucky and Vanderbilt were the only other schools who produced a pair of first-rounders this year, and while the merits of that achievement might reflect well on Lorenzo Romar’s ability to recruit, it also continues to raise questions about his coaching.
But in the meantime, Murray and Chriss were off to new destinations, and the national media had plenty to say about them and how they’ll fit in with their teams. Below is a sampling:
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Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated said the Spurs got late-lottery pick quality with their selection of Murray:
“Murray’s a gifted ball handler with great size and scoring instincts, with the only question being his jump shot. San Antonio has a strong history of fixing that. His potential is through the roof for where he was drafted, and this might be the perfect fit. As the Spurs start looking toward the future, this is a player that can totally be a piece. He might be the successor in Manu Ginobili’s role down the line.”
The San Antonio Express-News’ Tom Orsborn wrote about how the Spurs have a blueprint in place for Murray, the type that developed Kawhi Leonard:
“By joining one of the greatest organizations in the world, Murray has at his disposal all of the resources that helped turn Leonard into an all-around basketball beast. Murray said he’s ready to make the most of all of them, especially Popovich. ‘Great coach, probably one of the greatest coaches that ever coached,’ Murray said. But what if Popovich relentlessly hammers away at Murray like he famously did Tony Parker during his formative years with the Spurs? ‘I’m looking forward to him pushing me,’ said Murray.”
Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer called Chriss the biggest gamble of the draft:
“The big selling point is his athleticism. At 6-foot-10, 233 pounds, with a 7-foot wingspan, Chriss is a big man who moves like a guard. He gets off the ground quickly and he plays way above the rim. … His final NCAA game came in the second round of the NIT against San Diego State, a team overflowing with NBA-caliber athletes, if not NBA-caliber players. Steve Fisher recruits elite length and athleticism at every position for a program that prides itself on flying to the ball, and Chriss was easily the best athlete on the floor.”
CBSSports.com’s Sam Vecenie broke down Chriss’ strengths and weaknesses:
“Simply, Chriss tries too often to rely on his athleticism as opposed to getting a body on someone and boxing out. He also doesn’t seem to read the ball as quickly on the defensive glass as he does on the offensive glass. This is a big reason why, despite having a pair of relatively solid rebounders in Malik Dime and Noah Dickerson, the Huskies finished as one of the 15 worst teams nationally in defensive rebounding rate. Simply put, for this is a place where Chriss must make marked improvement if he wants to carve out an NBA career, as NBA coaches will have teams attack the offensive glass against him otherwise.”
Vecenie also handed out grades, giving the Spurs an A-minus despite his apprehension over Murray’s skillset:
“It was a simple night for the Spurs, letting Murray fall to them at No. 29. I’m not Murray’s biggest fan as a prospect. I think he’s a good ball-handler and attacks the lane well, but he’s a poor shooter, doesn’t finish well around the rim, and makes poor turnovers. At least two of those things are fixable in the Spurs system now, and I like him for them much more than I would like him for any other team due to their developmental system in terms of ironing out their players’ kinks. An awesome selection here for upside.”
Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic wrote about how Chriss has a potential “wow factor”:
“The Suns were encouraged by Chriss’ in-season improvement at Washington, where he finished with a 27-point, 11-rebound NIT game against Long Beach State to end the season averaging 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game. Chriss arguably is the best athlete in the draft but that sort of tantalizing promise in a big man does not always pan out (see Tyrus Thomas, Anthony Randolph, etc.).”
Yahoo Sports’ Ed Isaacson listed Phoenix as one of his winners of the draft thanks in part to its drafting of Chriss:
“The Suns were in need of a big who could stretch the floor, and ended up coming away with two top prospects who fit the bill and can make a future impact. At number four, Phoenix was able to land Croatian teenage Dragan Bender, and after a deal with Sacramento, grabbed Washington’s Marquese Chriss at number eight. Bender’s skill and Chriss’ athleticism should both fit in well for the Suns’ future.”
Aaron Torres of FoxSports.com gave the Spurs high marks for making their draft pick count:
“This was just another example of the Spurs doing Spurs-y things. Yes, they only had one pick, but used it on the most athletic point guard in the draft and one with quite possibly the highest upside as well. Don’t be surprised to see Murray scoring 20 points in a playoff game to beat your favorite team three or four years down the road.”
USA Today’s AJ Neuharth-Keusch and Michael Singer had similar praise for the Spurs taking Murray:
“Somehow, some way, the 67-win Spurs — the team that has found themselves in the postseason for each of the past 19 seasons — landed one of the most talented point guards in the draft with the 29th overall pick.
CBSSports.com also listed the Suns as one of their winners, thanks in part to Chriss’ potential:
“Bender and Chriss both project as versatile power forwards, but they could not be more different players. Bender has great instincts in just about every aspect of the game, and he should at the very least be a playmaking 4 who can switch onto smaller players in the NBA. Chriss is an athletic marvel who has as much upside as anyone in the draft, but did not pass much or show much discipline on defense in college. These two will make Phoenix fun to watch, even if it takes them a few years to figure it out.”
Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports graded every team’s draft, and gave the Spurs a B for taking Murray:
“This doesn’t appear to be your typical late, Spurs-y pick. Murray wasn’t a film student and to the best of our knowledge he didn’t take sommelier courses at Washington. He’s not already slower than Ime Udoka, as some recent Spurs rookies appear to be. No, this is a knockout athlete with a nose for the rim at the point guard position, someone to raise a little hell on a team that likes to be in bed by 9.”
Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Sharp graded the Suns out at a B-plus for their draft:
“They came into this draft looking for a stretch four, and they’ll leave with the two best stretch four options on the board, and all it took was giving up a role player to the Kings. Chriss isn’t a sure thing and Bender’s upside is questionable, but this is a huge win. There are still too many similar players on Phoenix’s roster. But given how chaotic that equation sounds, the long-term Suns outlook is remarkably positive. Chriss and Bender are insurance policies for each other, but they could also fit well side-by-side, too. And provided one or both pans out, Phoenix will have a killer pick-and-roll partner for Devin Booker when it’s time to start really competing in the West in a few years.”