Trail Blazers rookie named a player to watch for rest of 2023-24 regular season

It's worth keeping an eye on a recent first-round pick, but not the one you might expect.
Scoot Henderson, Kris Murray; Portland Trail Blazers
Scoot Henderson, Kris Murray; Portland Trail Blazers / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

The Portland Trail Blazers started over by trading Damian Lillard and selecting Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. It was a microcosm of the franchise's rebuild - send away a veteran guard and replace him with a younger one.

But Scoot wasn't the Blazers' only first-round pick last summer. Portland grabbed Kris Murray at No. 23, hoping he could translate his production at Iowa to the NBA. He still hasn't completed his rookie season so it's too early to write him off, but as a 23-year-old entering the draft, Murray has less leeway than Henderson.

His development will be important to watch over the final weeks of the regular season, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic (subscription required).

Blazers' Kris Murray is a player to watch the rest of this season

Murray hasn't just been disappointing for a first-round pick when he's been on the floor. He's barely seen it. He's only appeared in 36 games and is averaging 14.3 minutes. For a team that wants to play its young players, that's not the best sign, as Hollinger wrote:

"Portland has seemed remarkably uninterested in load-testing Murray, the 23rd pick in the 2023 draft. ... It was a bit jarring to see him DNP’d until garbage time last Tuesday (Feb. 13) while (Dalano) Banton played 26 minutes."

John Hollinger, The Athletic

Murray was projected to be an immediate three-and-D-type contributor. But even on fewer than 2 attempts per game, he's only shooting 28.4 percent from three. He's started Portland's last two games and is a combined 0-of-8 from deep.

As Hollinger notes, this is the time of year to keep throwing Murray onto the court. The Blazers feel the same way based on the last two games - he's averaged 34 minutes.

"Murray is a player archetype — dependent more on feel and craft than overwhelming athleticism — who could certainly benefit from the reps to figure out what works for him at this level. He’s also shown interesting flashes on defense, although the Blazers are overloaded with the “D-and-not-so-much-3” archetype already."

John Hollinger


He's not a lost cause, but Murray needs to show at least some improvement over the final months of the season, particularly in his 3-point shooting. It won't take long for him to get buried on the depth chart under younger prospects at the same position with higher upside.