Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair has a simple NBA Draft philosophy: take the best player available. Their No. 4 overall pick was highly coveted. They entertained trade offers and explored several possible selections, including Purdue’s Jaden Ivey and Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin, but ultimately one player rose above the rest.
“After sitting in the room with with my front office staff, coaching staff, scouting department, our analytics department, it became unanimous that Keegan Murray was the best player available and we jumped at the chance to select him,” McNair said to reporters after the draft.
The Kings made the former Iowa star the highest drafted player in Hawkeyes men’s basketball history. Murray emerged as one of college basketball’s premier players last season, McNair stated that the Kings had been targeting Murray since his freshman season. His All-American campaign just confirmed their initial interest.
“Keegan (was) one of the most prolific scorers in the country,” McNair said. “Blocks steals, rebounds: he impacts the game in so many ways. We talked about versatility, (he is) somebody who can play inside, inside and out on offense, somebody who can guard multiple positions on the defensive end. And somebody who was one of the best players on one of the best teams in the country all year long. ”
Murray will join a Kings’ core that features two highly-drafted, young guards in De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell and NBA All-Star forward / center Domantas Sabonis, whom the Kings acquired during last season’s trade deadline. McNair said first-year head coach Mike Brown won’t pigeonhole Murray into one position; the plan is for the combo forward to fit into several lineup variations.
Regardless of position, Murray (6-foot-8, 225 pounds) helps with several needs for the Kings including size, length, defensive ability and shooting. Another positive selling point for McNair was Murray’s path to this point. He was both a key bench player and the No. 1 option on Iowa – the ability to thrive in both roles will allow him to transition well onto a team with established pieces.
“The things he does on the court show up even in smaller samples,” McNair said. “That just gives you even more confidence that you know, this guy was able to impact the game in a smaller roll off the bench and then come in and be the go-to star (Iowa) needed this year when he was given a bigger role. And the fact that he continues to grow like that is another positive as we look into his future. ”
McNair also took a moment to address pre-draft question marks about Murray, mainly that the 21-year old sophomore has a low ceiling compared to other elite prospects and is limited athletically.
“I don’t know how you would say that about a guy who led the led the country in points scored,” McNair said. “I think he he is very smooth with his game, and maybe that lulls people to sleep but a guy who dunks the ball, runs in transition, rebounds the ball, blocks and steals, all these things indicate a dynamic player with athleticism.”
As much as Murray was a basketball fit for the Kings, he fit their culture as well. McNair confirmed reports that Murray went to dinner with Fox and other members of the team during his pre-draft visit to Sacramento. A glowing review from the current players added another layer of confidence for Kings management that he would be the correct decision.
“We’ve found Keegan to be an incredible worker and competitor,” McNair said. “Humble but confident, and off the court he’s a universally loved teammate. The fact that our staff lined up on this that gives me more confidence. And then somebody who obviously checks all the production boxes.”
Shortly after his selection, Murray said in a live interview on ESPN that the Kings are getting a “winner, first and foremost.” He led Iowa to their first Big Ten championship in 16 years last season, and that’s the same amount of years it’s been since the Kings were in the NBA playoffs.
With him in the fold, McNair feels like the organization is on the upswing.
“My job is to build the best team that’s going to take the court this year and for years to come,” McNair said. “And I think Keegan is exactly that player. I think he’s gonna be with us for a long time and somebody who’s got a very bright future ahead of him in this league, and he’s going to contribute for many years ahead.”