We understand if you all have a bad taste in your mouth after reading “JazzRank 15: Raja Bell.” Or, as it was entitled in the draft stages, “The Many Odious and Infamous Crimes of Utah’s First and Hopefully Only Rostered Non-Player.” Fortunately, coming in at number 14 is the heart-warming Kevin Murphy Experience.
Offseason Accomplishments: Under the scrutiny of almost any standard of judgment, Kevin Murphy’s greatest accomplishment this offseason was fathering a child. This is because the miracle of human birth trumps any and all achievements that could occur on a basketball court. Many thanks to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News for providing the Best Feel-Good Jazz-related Story of the Year.
While everything else Murphy accomplished this offseason pales in comparison to that, he still managed a number of other important triumphs. He was drafted 47th overall by the Jazz, becoming only the third player from Tennessee Tech to be drafted into the NBA since the draft moved to the two-round format. Also, this YouTube video of Murphy scoring 50 points (totally worth the 1:40 it takes to watch) surpassed 26,000 views. While Murphy’s summer league and preseason performances have been solid, if unspectacular, other than hitting five 3-pointers in the intra-squad scrimmage. The sample size has been small enough that any other quiet performance can be justifiably ignored. Finally, there was his radio fail, and if you listen to that without smiling affectionately, then you have no heart.
Patronus: Ring-tailed Lemur. Adorable, right?
Stat to Watch: Minutes played. Like with many late second-round draft picks, evaluating how Kevin Murphy performs at the NBA level will be difficult since he’s likely to play so few minutes. This is especially true in a system like Tyrone Corbin’s that values veteran presence. If Murphy can prove that he’s as offensively talented as advertised, he can begin carving out a Jeremy Evans-like slot on the roster.
Three Potential Outcomes for the season:
1. He gets cut, forcing him to temporarily find work elsewhere to support his burgeoning young family. This is depressing. Let’s move on.
2. Jeremy Evans 2.0: Not with the dunking, so much as becoming a perennial presence at the end of the Jazz’s bench, collecting his paycheck, and providing some instant and entertaining offense at the end of blow-out games or during stretches where the line-up is injury depleted. Not only does this seem like the most likely scenario for the season, but this is a win-win-win for everyone involved.
3. As already mentioned, if Murphy gets playing time, I think he has the skills to contribute offensively. If nothing else, Murphy can do what Raja did last year, only hopefully more efficiently: roll off screens for open jump shots, knock down catch-and-shoot threes when the defense collapses on the bigs, and avoid turnovers. Paul Millsap, the Jazz’s last 47th pick, ended up getting 18 minutes a game during his rookie season. Millsap earned time by pounding the glass with relentless tenacity. Murphy can do it by stretching the defense with his long-range shooting. So for the third, most shamelessly optimistic outcome, Murphy becomes Young Raja 2.0, sans the attitude and the established but slightly overrated perimeter defense. In case you justifiably can’t endure the comparison, let’s call him Suns-era Quentin Richardson.