Scouting Report & Film Review: Trey Murphy III

As an elite off-ball scorer and defender, Trey Murphy III projects to be an excellent NBA role player.

Strengths: Shooting off the catch, off-ball movement, defense

Weaknesses: Ball skills, shot creation, playmaking

Consensus Expected Draft Range: 15-25

Where I'd Draft Him: 14-20

Shades Of: Cam Johnson, better defensive Reggie Bullock, Otto Porter Jr

Best Team Fits: Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks

Trey Murphy entered the 2020 season with little draft buzz but quickly emerged as Virginia's best prospect in the 2021 NBA Draft. Murphy spent two years at Rice University, where he joined as a 6'4 180-pound shooting guard. Murphy quickly shot up to 6'9, transferred to Virginia, and is a potential lottery pick. Not a bad 12 months.

So, how did Murphy skyrocket from anonymity to stardom? He played incredible basketball against some of the toughest competition in the country. Murphy quickly emerged as Virginia's best defender while also joining the 50/40/90 club. Murphy's combination of athleticism, shooting, and defense is exactly what NBA teams crave in their role-playing wings.

Scoring

I know it's reductive and simplistic to label players as 3-and-D wings, but that label was aptly earned by Murphy and caries no derision. In the NBA, Murphy will operate purely as an off-ball wing and be really damn good at it.

Joining the 50/40/90 club with 120 three-point attempts is impressive on its own, but Murphy's numbers are even more impressive as you dig into them. According to Synergy, Murphy scored 1.237 points per possession (PPP), ranking in the 99th percentile. Murphy also scored 1.184 PPP spotting up (91st percentile), 1.228 PPP on jump shots (94th percentile), and 1.281 PPP shooting off the catch (89th percentile). In short, Murphy was one of the best off-ball shooters in the country. Murphy is excellent at relocating to open pockets on the perimeter and has a beautiful shooting stroke.

Where Murphy sets himself apart from other 3-and-D wings, though, is with his extraordinary cutting. When Murphy cut, he scored 1.731 PPP (99th percentile). He has excellent timing, and the threat of his outside shooting frequently creates opportunities to back cut. Once Murphy plants his foot, he explodes towards the rim. He has a notable first step on his cuts paired with legitimate explosiveness at the rim.

Murphy has an exquisite understanding of the floor and how to properly attack open areas. We see this on his relocation threes and his cuts. Murphy also shows it on plays designed for him, like we see below. As Murphy runs off the back screen, he can either flare out to the corner, reuse the screen to relocate to the wing, or cut to the basket. Murphy sees that the screener's defender stays tight to the screener and leaves the rim unattended. A lot of players would bolt for the rim. Murphy, however, knows that his point guard will have to lob the ball over the defenders, which will take longer. To give himself and the passer enough space, Murphy slows his momentum before making the easy layup.

Besides cutting, Murphy also used his 38-inch max vertical leap in transition, scoring 1.55 PPP (97th percentile). Virginia shockingly (sarcasm) didn't run much in transition, but Murphy proved a devastating finisher when they did. Murphy will be afforded more opportunities to run in transition in the NBA due to the faster pace, and he will feast on leak-outs after contesting threes.

The most significant concern with Murphy's offense is his lack of ball skills. Murphy is a very limited ball-handler and provides little playmaking. He is a smart passer who moves the ball, but it is more connecting rather than creating. When it came to on-ball scoring, Murphy's sample size is infinitesimal. He only had 18 possessions in isolation, six possessions as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, and ten shots off the dribble. Murphy's numbers in those categories were incredibly efficient, but if the ball bounces differently in one or two of those possessions, the results look drastically different, making the processes the critical part.

Here, Murphy attempts to attack the closeout but fails. Murphy's defender foolishly helps off the strongside corner, but Murphy can't punish him. As Murphy attacks middle, he bails on the drive at the first sign of a help defender. Murphy uses a slow spin back into his defender instead of securing the ball, turning the corner, and trying to get to the rim. Murphy then picks up his dribble and is thankful for his teammate's rescue.

Again, Murphy tries to beat his defender off the dribble but lacks the first step to turn the corner. Murphy is quickly bodied and preemptively tries to spin out of pressure. Murphy's spin is slow, and the ball is not tight to his body. Jalen Suggs smells blood in the water and pounces on the sloppy handle.

When Murphy attempts to create off the dribble, it typically goes poorly. He lacks the confidence, burst, and handle to create anything on more than a few dribbles. Hopefully, Murphy gets to the point where he can at least attack closeouts regularly. He doesn't need to become a primary initiator, but he needs to develop enough competence to attack closeouts or on a straight-line drive. While there isn't a ton of evidence in Murphy's favor, he has shown a few flashes of using some craft to create off a few dribbles.

Defense

Murphy was one of the best overall defenders in the country last season. He is a multi-positional defender who can shut down drives, help from the weakside, switch on screens, and disrupt passing lanes. Murphy makes up for his teammate's deficiencies with extraordinary effort, reactions, and awareness. Teams with defense-deficient backcourts would improve by leaps and bound by adding Murphy.

As an on-ball defender, Murphy does an excellent job of moving his feet and flipping his hips. Here, Murphy does an excellent job of sliding his feet horizontally (not at a backward angle) to cut off Kispert's drive and keep him from the paint. As Kispert cuts back, Murphy plants, recovers, and instantly flips his hips to deny Kispert's second attempt.

Here, Murphy shows his ability to switch on opposing point guards. Murphy again slides his feet to cut off the drive. He remains in a low stance, which keeps him balanced. The ball-handler uses a series of twitchy fakes, and Murphy reacts to each of them. When Murphy reacts, though, it is with his hands, not his body. Many players tend to rise out of their stance when they bite on fakes like this. Murphy, however, stays low in his stance, allowing him to stay in front of the ball-handler, and tracks the ball with his hands to disrupt passing angles.

Murphy is also an exemplary off-ball and team defender, as we can see him defend every inch of the floor on one possession below. Murphy initially stays tight on his man through the off-ball screen. As the ball enters the post, Murphy's teammates double the ball. Instead of staying with his man to the corner, Murphy immediately picks up his teammate's man to deny an open layup. Murphy proceeds to battle the opposing center to deny the ball while his teammate recovers. Once his teammate recovers, Murphy recovers to his man and closes out under control. Murphy effortlessly slides his feet and immediately kills the drive attempt.

Murphy's timing on switches and rotations is crucial for defensive success. He covers for teammates while not making any mistakes on his own recoveries. There isn't a situation or play type that Murphy is uncomfortable defending.

Here, Murphy hedges the pick-and-roll to ensure his teammate has time to recover. Murphy's man pops to the wing, and in most cases, this is an open three. However, Murphy times his recovery perfectly and breaks back towards his man the second the ball-handler makes a motion to pass. Instead of wildly flying by on the closeout, Murphy stays under control, allowing him to flip his hips and slide his feet when the ball-handler attacks against Murphy's momentum. Due to Murphy's footwork and balance, he cuts off the drive and contests the ugly floater.

Murphy will be a positive defender in all areas of the floor. He moves his feet well on the perimeter, closes out under control, perfectly times his rotations, and is willing to do the dirty work. With his size and athleticism, Murphy will be a top-tier defender for a long time. Any rotation that he is a part of will immediately improve due to his presence alone.

Outlook

Projecting what Trey Murphy will be in the NBA feels comfortable, and I mean no insult by that. Murphy has the tools to be a high-level 3-and-D wing from the start. Offensively, Murphy is an elite off-ball threat with his movement, shooting, and above-the-rim finishing. He will provide very little creation ability, but improving his handle to just attack closeouts will do wonders for him. As a defender, there are few things Murphy can't do. He switches at ease, has excellent footwork, and seems to be a step ahead on every play.

Limiting prospects to purely a 3-and-D role is unfair and discredits their potential growth. While Murphy can certainly improve as a ball-handler and on-ball scorer, he is currently vital to NBA rotations as is. Players like Cam Johnson prove to be essential to good teams every season. Murphy likely won't make an All-Star game in his career, but he has the foundation to be an elite role player on legitimate contenders.

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