By John Bohnenkamp
The analytics and the scouting reports agreed, Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair said — Iowa’s Keegan Murray was the best choice for the Kings with their No. 4 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
Murray became the highest selection in the draft in Iowa history — Fred Brown was picked sixth overall by Seattle in 1971. He is Iowa’s first Top-10 selection since Ronnie Lester was selected No. 10 by Portland in 1980.
McNair said the consensus of everyone involved with the Kings about Murray’s ability now, and his ability to progress as a player, made him the easy choice.
“Our scouts see that he can continue to grow,” McNair said. “And that’s not just something that, you know, maybe he had a good year or something like that. All those things line up. And like I said, you keep checking those boxes, it gives you so much confidence.”
Murray averaged 23.5 points last season, fourth-best among NCAA Division I players. He led the nation with 822 points, adding 303 rebounds, 68 blocks, 66 3-point field goals, 52 assists, and 45 steals last season.
Those numbers are why McNair challenged a question about Murray possibly having a “low ceiling” as a player.
“I would say go back and look at some guys who people thought had low ceilings,” McNair said. “I don’t know how you would say that about a guy who led the country in points scored, who had the steal-block-rebound numbers that he does.
“Keegan was in the Big Ten, the best conference in the country, being one of the most productive players you know all season long against some of the toughest competition. We don’t see it that way (that he has a low ceiling). We think Keegan has an extremely high ceiling. We think he’s going to come in here and prove that to everyone. I’m sure he’s excited, and I’m excited to see it.”
Murray, who averaged 7.2 points per game as a freshman, had the largest collegiate year-to-year scoring increase by a Top-5 draft pick in the NBA’s modern draft era.
“Keegan is somebody that was on our radar last year, even though he had a smaller role,” McNair said. The things he does on the court show up, even in smaller samples. And so, the fact that he took it to the heights he did this year is certainly a testament to him and the program.
“But it’s also things that we saw the beginnings of last year. That just gives you even more confidence — that this guy was able to impact it in a smaller role off the bench, and then come in and be the go-to star they needed this year when he was given a bigger role. And the fact that he continues to grow like that, you know, is another positive as we look into his future.”
Murray, a sophomore, is the fifth Hawkeye to be drafted under head coach Fran McCaffery. Devyn Marble went to Orlando in 2014, while Aaron White was drafted by Washington in 2015. Luka Garza (Detroit) and Joe Wieskamp (San Antonio) were selected in the second round last year. Undrafted free agent Tyler Cook, who played three seasons with the Hawkeyes from 2017-19, played 28 games with the Detroit Pistons in 2021 and 20 contests with the Chicago Bulls last season.
The 6-foot-8 Murray had a breakout sophomore season, earning consensus first-team All-America honors as well as being a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten honoree. Murray was the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year, and was a finalist for the Naismith, Wooden and Lute Olson player of the year awards.
Murray scored 20 or more points 26 times — 25 or more 16 times — last season. He was voted the Big Ten Tournament most outstanding player after scoring a tournament-record 103 points, leading the Hawkeyes to their third tournament championship and first since 2006.
Photo: Iowa’s Keegan Murray was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the fourth pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)