Trey Murphy

Murphy is one of the better wing shooters in college basketball with a rapidly developing physical profile and skillset. His efficient play has put him on the map for NBA scouts this year as he continues to impress with his jump shooting, finishing, and general progress.

Shooting/Offensive Role

Among players with his size and physical talent, few have the shooting touch of Murphy. Only six NCAA players since 2010 have reached 40 dunks, 40% on three-pointers and 80% from the free-throw line in their career, and Murphy has by far the highest frequency of three-pointers among these players. Of those six, Murphy and Mike Daum are the only two listed at 6’8 or taller. Additionally, Murphy and Duncan Robinson are the only players listed at 6’8 or above with at least 11 three-pointers attempted per 100 possessions in their career along with 40% on three-pointers and 80% from the free-throw line. Essentially, players with Murphy’s shooting ability are rarely also blessed with excellent size and athleticism.

Murphy’s rare archetype is a jewel for line-up construction in the modern league. Almost every team is clamoring for the opportunity to add a guy who can defend across multiple frontcourt positions and keep defenses honest from well beyond the arc with consistency.

Murphy is an absolute knockdown shooter, especially on 1-2 step and catch-and-shoot jump shots from all around the perimeter. If his feet are set and he has the time to wind up and follow through, he is as good as it gets in all of college basketball.

He has made more open three-pointers this year than all but two players in the country according to Synergy Sports. Murphy gets great rhythm going from shot preparation into wind up and release, with the same exact motion every single time and extremely consistent timing all throughout his shot mechanics. That sort of machine-like consistency is indicative of major work ethic, showing that Murphy is capable of further improvement down the line. In fact, he has improved on his shot throughout his NCAA career and is at over 46% on three-pointers so far this season compared to 39% his first two years at Rice. 

While Murphy is an excellent shooter, this alone is often not enough to make an impact in the league. Even great floor spacers like Cameron Johnson and Duncan Robinson displayed a positive impact in several categories beyond just jump shooting in college. Quick, smart decision making and the ability to move the ball around the arc and find open teammates is one particularly important category. Both Robinson and Johnson had an A:TO ratio well above 1 in their college careers, as Murphy does currently.

While he has not received a lot of opportunity to show his ability to create shots for himself or teammates in his current role, in the rare opportunities he has received, Murphy has been greatly successful. He can take a single dribble and quickly recognize where the open man is or even run pick-n-roll and finish using his excellent shooting touch. Murphy has also done a good job using the threat of his jump shot and Virginia’s excellent spacing to cut and get easy looks at the rim.

Athleticism/Physical Talent

While jump shooting is of disproportionate importance for success in the NBA and is Murphy’s main draw as a prospect, his value is hammered home by the physical talent he possesses in tandem with his offensive skill set. Of active NCAA players with at least 350 three point attempts in their career, Murphy is the only player to have shot over 72% at the rim (he is at nearly 78%) and one of just five players to have shot over 70%. Murphy and Michigan’s Isaiah Livers are the only active NCAA players with at least 40 career dunks and 40% on three-pointers. These combinations of different shooting and athleticism-based stats are endless and all gesture toward Murphy’s exceptionally rare combination of size, athleticism and perimeter shooting. His efficiency around the rim is outstanding, as he is shooting nearly 80% around the basket. That is a statistical threshold usually reserved for 7 foot big men, not wing floor spacers like Murphy.

His athletic ability is somewhat underrated, as he shows impressive vertical leaping off two feet and is able to rise well above the rim and over the top of defenders with ease. Murphy has impressive straight line quickness and can blow by defenders who close out too eagerly while attempting to contain his dangerous catch and shoot attempts. The combination of quickness and vertical pop should allow Murphy to dissuade NBA defenders from these aggressive closeouts. This really separates Murphy from many other great pure shooters, who lack the ability to finish in the paint in traffic. 

According to Virginia assistant coach Jason Williford, Murphy was “6-foot-4, 150 pounds” as a junior in high school. He was listed 6’7 as a freshman at Rice, at 6’8 as a sophomore and is now listed at 6’9 as a junior in Virginia. He is also 8 months younger than the average NBA prospect in his high school class. This only adds further upside for development to Murphy’s evaluation as a long term prospect.

Choosing Virginia as a transfer also made a great fit for Murphy’s development as a defensive player. Tony Bennett is one of the better defensive coaches in the country and under his guidance Murphy has become a much more effective defender, especially on the ball. He shows impressive mirroring on ball and uses his size and quick coordination to keep opponents contained with a cushion while still being able to contest their jump shot attempts with his length. Murphy has also become a more active rebounder and has shown some upside as a help side shot blocker due to his size.

While Virginia has helped Murphy’s development, he has not received many open floor opportunities within their methodically paced offensive philosophy; Virginia ranks 357th of 357 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted tempo. A more open floor environment will likely add another dimension to Murphy’s offensive abilities.

Areas of Improvement

While Murphy’s development, offensive skill and athleticism are impressive, he can still work on several spots in his game. As great a shooter as he is, Murphy is mostly comfortable with his feet set, spotting up. He has not shown great versatility as a jump shooter, rarely taking shots on the move, running off floppy or pin down or going up directly off the dribble, though this might not be due to lack of ability given teammate Sam Hauser’s extreme proficiency in those same play types. Having the threat of those shots in his arsenal will make it more difficult to contain him and could potentially make him one of the better shooters his size in the world.

Murphy prefers to take a slight pause in his “shot pocket” when the ball is near the top of his shoulder, on the side of his head, getting some negative arm momentum and thereby, a “two-motion” release. When he is able to get this type of shot attempt executed mechanically, Murphy is nearly automatic. However, on shots that require a quicker release, particularly shots on the move and shots that typically ask for the “hop”-type footwork, Murphy is significantly less comfortable with the more “single” motion attempts that tend to occur. 

Due to the hop footwork and how quickly he has to get into the shot after the catch, he is forced to rely on his lower body for the power and ball control of the attempt. On his best looking attempts, Murphy seems to receive an overwhelming amount of his power and aim from purely his wrist and elbow, with the lower body only providing some balance. He certainly has the touch to improve on this and with repetition and perhaps some slight tweaks on his mechanics, there is reason to believe Murphy will eventually become more comfortable as a movement shooter. Many young wings started out as strictly stand still shooters but eventually evolved to add considerable shooting versatility. In recent games, Murphy has begun to flash a floater game in the short range, which is another weapon he can use in the future.

Murphy’s other current drawback is physical strength, particularly the mid-body. This can also be somewhat excused by his continued physical growth, something not many players experience at this late of an age. It is clear Murphy has to consistently learn how to stay balanced and coordinated while becoming a larger human being.  This is no small task and while Murphy does not possess an exceptional frame, he seems solid enough to be able to add somewhat considerable muscle after going through an NBA strength regimen. This should help him become a lot more physical and aggressive in playing through contact inside on both ends.

Murphy’s handle is also likely yielded by his physical ascendence. Murphy’s draft stock will be significantly boosted if scouts can be more confident in his ability to play on the perimeter. He can answer those questions by increasing his competency in changing speeds and directions with the ball in his hands. His balance with the ball could use work and added strength will only help, as he plays a bit more upright than would be ideal. At times, this shows up defensively where more physical, thicker players can bump Murphy out of the way on drives.

Conclusion

Overlooked due to his late growth spurt, Murphy was not well-known to most teams playing for mid-major Rice in his first two seasons. He was not even expected to play this year for Virginia until being granted eligibility prior to the first game of the season. So it was not until recently that NBA scouts and executives have begun to feel comfortable putting him into big board conversations. He will likely continue to rise over the next few months and could end up a first round pick if things work out well.

A number of teams have too many centers and some have too many guards but almost every single NBA franchise would love to add a wing player with great size, athleticism and a knockdown three-point shot. Still, polish is needed in various areas including taking on a more assertive and active approach into functional translation of his abilities in play to play, on-court situations.  If Murphy is able to prove himself as a capable two-way player who can make deep shots in various contexts, NBA teams should soon be falling over themselves to add him to their roster.