What did the Blazers do to ruin the Kings’ offseason?
Portland came into the 2023 NBA Draft with two first-round picks. The first was the most heralded, the Blazers’ own pick that landed at No. 3 overall and with which they selected Scoot Henderson, the final domino in Damian Lillard’s decision to request a trade out of Portland.
The quieter pick made by the Blazers was at No. 23, originally the New York Knicks’ pick that they gained in the Josh Hart trade. They used the pick on Iowa’s Kris Murray, a 6-foot-8 forward from Iowa who broke out as a junior, averaging more than 20 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game.
Murray isn’t an elite prospect; teams that were high on him heading into the draft pegged him as a solid three-and-D player with some shot-creation upside in the right scenarios. He has played a small role, even on the Blazers’ NBA Summer League team, averaging 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his three appearances.
How did drafting Murray affect the Kings? Well, Murray broke out in college at Iowa this past season in large part because of the departure of the Hawkeyes’ previous leading scorer: Kris’s twin brother, Keegan Murray, an All-Rookie player last season on the Kings.
More than just tongue-in-cheek jokes, the Kings reportedly had very real interest in Murray, and he was commonly mocked to Sacramento in the weeks leading into the NBA Draft. He fit a need, too; whether or not Harrison Barnes was going to return, the two Murray brothers had complementary skillsets to be in the long-term mix at the three and four positions.
Rather than move the pick for veteran help, the Blazers stayed the course in preparing for their rebuild and used the pick at No. 23. More than that, they used it on Murray, very possibly taking the player the Kings were preparing to take.
There is no proof, and the Kings may have been preparing to trade out of the 24th pick whether or not Murray was on the board. But let’s pull on that thread and see where it leads us. What if the selection of Kris Murray changed the entire trajectory of the Kings’ offseason?