Do The Pelicans Have “Baby KD” On Their Hands In Trey Murphy III?

The Pelicans may have found a core piece to build around in 2021 draft pick Trey Murphy III. The second-year player saw a huge uptick in minutes this season and joined Kevin Durant as the only two players in the league this season to shoot 60 percent on twos, 40 percent on threes and 90 percent on FTs. Is Murphy III the next KD?

Murphy III is averaging 31 minutes per game, scoring 14.5 points per game on 48/40/90 shooting splits. His efficiency splits are 61 eFG% and 65 TS%. He ranks in the 76th percentile in EPM at +0.6.

KD Comparisons Are Unfair

Comparing any young player to KD is unfair. He is, after all, one of the greatest players of all time, a multi-time All-NBA, All-Star, two-time Finals MVP, etc., etc.

By year two KD was already the No. 1 option and leading scorer for the Oklahoma City Thunder. It is highly unlikely that Murphy III becomes the No. 1 option and that kind of leader of a team.

But he is becoming a legitimate piece of a potential three-headed attack with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson if the latter gets healthy.

“We’re watching Trey grow up right in front of us,” head coach Willie Green said after a win against the New York Knicks last Friday. “He’s having a better understanding that when teams close out on him, it’s a quick decision for him getting to the basket and finishing, drawing fouls or kicking it out to teammates.”

Unfortunately for the Pelicans, it doesn’t look like they’ll get to see what their three-headed attack looks like this postseason. There is no timetable for Williamson’s return, and the Pelicans are in the play-in tournament, so there’s no guarantee they even make the playoffs.

Murphy Can Still Improve

But as the Pelicans are battling for the eighth seed they’ll have at least two more games to play this season, which leaves more time for Murphy III to shine.

In addition to his shooting, Murphy III has improved his attacks off the bounce and scoring at the rim.

He’s also improved tremendously at moving off the catch, which started during his run at NBA Summer League in 2022. He’s gotten stronger, so he can contort around help defenders and operate in tight spaces. Murphy is shooting 67.3 percent at the rim after shooting 48.6 percent a season ago. He blends tenacity with patience, is a springy two-foot leaper and wields a 7-foot-1 wingspan to slither in finishes from atypical angles.

Murphy had the second-highest points per game jump in the league this season at +8.6, only trailing the Utah Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen.

There is still so much room for Murphy to improve. He’s only 22 and can improve his pull-up game in the midrange. His defense also leaves a lot to be desired. At 6 feet 9 with above-average athleticism, he should be a plus defender.

For now, we’ll see if the Pelicans have enough to qualify as the eighth seed and take on the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in round one.

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