Toronto Raptors: Three restricted free agents for fans to keep an eye on this season

Toronto Raptors - Masai Ujiri (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Masai Ujiri (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Dejounte Murray vs Toronto Raptors (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Dejounte Murray

Good things happened the last time the Raptors acquired a player that had spent time in the Spurs’ development system. No, Dejounte Murray is not on the same level as Kawhi Leonard. But all the tools are there for Murray to develop into one of the best point guards in the NBA.

Murray is only 22 years old. He will be 23 when the season tips off. Like most Spurs players, Murray was a late first-round draft (selected no. 29). Murray is long and athletic. He has great size for the point guard position, standing 6-foot-5 (in shoes) with a 6-foot-9.5 wingspan.

Murray’s stats don’t jump out at you, but anyone who has watched him play can see that he is special.

In 2017-18, Murray averaged 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Murray was named to the All-Defensive Second Team. He was the youngest player in NBA history to be named to an All-Defensive Team. Murray was also the only player under 6-foot-6 to post at least 400 rebounds, 90 steals and 30 blocks that season.

Murray looked poised for a breakout season last year. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn right ACL in a preseason game against the Houston Rockets. Murray had surgery and missed the entire season.

In Murray’s absence, the Spurs turned to Derrick White and Bryn Forbes. Neither one can match Murray’s physical presence. But in typical Spurs fashion, both unheralded players stepped up and played a large role in making a playoff push.

In late June, Murray began going through 4-on-4s, and he should be ready for this season’s training camp. However, given his injury, the Spurs will likely wait and see how he looks on the court before offering an extension.

Murray is a solid passer. He is excellent in transition and capable of finishing with highlight-reel dunks.

However, at this stage in his career, he’s more valuable on defense then he is on the offensive side of the floor. Murray is a strong one-on-one defender. He is good at reading passing lanes. Murray also his broad shoulders and should be able to fill out a little more.

The biggest hole in Murray’s game is his shooting. Murray shot 44.3 percent from the field and 26.5 percent from three-point range. In order to take his game to the next level, Murray needs to become at least an average three-point shooter.

If teams are forced to guard Murray on the perimeter, he has the speed to get by his defender and either finish at the rim or create for a teammate. But if Murray doesn’t improve his jump shot, teams will play off him and dare him to shoot.

The Spurs have had success teaching players how to shoot. Chip Engelland is one of the most well-respect shooting coaches in the league. Kawhi is the most obvious example. He came into the league without a reliable jump shot and now he is a career 38 percent three-point shooter.

The question becomes, how much faith do the Spurs have in Murray’s potential and how much are they willing to invest in him?

For comparison, history shows us that starter level first-round picks get paid. Aaron Gordon (four-years, $84 million), Gary Harris (four-years, $84 million) and Zach LaVine (four-years, $78 million) are all examples of good players who got paid based on their potential.

To take it one step further, this past summer both Malcolm Brogdon (four-year, $85 million) and Terry Rozier (three-years, $58 million) signed lucrative new contracts. Point guard is one of the most important positions in the league today. There is no doubt that someone with Murray’s potential will be offered a contract starting at $20 million-plus per season. But when the time comes, will the Spurs be prepared to match that offer?