3 Trail Blazers ready to impress and earn a bigger role next season

As Portland's tank accelerates, opportunities for these young players will emerge.

Kris Murray, Portland Trail Blazers
Kris Murray, Portland Trail Blazers / Alika Jenner/GettyImages
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Kris Murray

The biggest beneficiary from recent openings in the Blazers rotation has been Kris Murray. The 6-foot-8 forward saw most of his early-season action in the G League, but head coach Chauncey Billups promoted Murray to the starting lineup after the all-star break.

Murray’s chances of becoming a reliable contributor in the NBA depend on his ability to hone his three-and-D skill set. Shooting remains a swing skill for Murray, who has struggled with consistency, only shooting 30.2 percent from three in the G League after shooting 33.5 percent from three in his last year of college.

Murray’s size and agility equip him with the physical tools to become an impact perimeter defender. In his limited time defending NBA offenses, Murray’s length and switchability has proved useful, earning him tough defensive assignments like Duncan Robinson against the Miami Heat.

Increased reps will help him develop as an on-ball defender and gain comfort playing in NBA schemes.

Outside of 3-point shooting, Murray can augment his offensive game by developing as a cutter and decision-maker. If Murray improves his 3-point shooting, punishing closeouts with rim attacks and kickouts will help him round out his offensive skill set. Murray has flashed signs of competent ball handling, signaling potential as a secondary playmaker who can serve as a connector within the offense, not just a stand-still shooter.

The end of the season will not only be an opportunity for Murray to earn more minutes, it be a chance for him to develop synergy with the team’s other young rookies: Scoot Henderson, Rupert and Toumani Camara.

The team’s young group of rookies comprise the Blazers’ long-term core. Increased repetitions with each other will help the group develop an identity, the next step in the team’s path back to the playoffs.