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Keegan Murray, Chet Holmgren, and why being Prisoner of the Moment ain't so bad
Programming note: Basketball Poetry is going to Summer League! I’ll be absorbing as many games as one human can without exploding, and I hope to come at you with some fun and informative coverage from Las Vegas sometime over the weekend and/or early next week. So stay tuned!
You have to preface any Summer League talk with yes, you know it’s Summer League, yes, you know that guys regularly score 40 there and then never play in the league, yes, you know that the competition level isn’t NBA-caliber, etc., etc.
Honestly, the preamble can take longer than the point you’re trying to make.
But then you get to the meat of it, and by golly, Chet Holmgren might become the greatest NBA player of all time before this season’s done. Unless, of course, Keegan Murray takes that crown. You’re at least 80% sure it will be one of those two guys by the time the calendar flips to 2023.
Because, your god, did those dudes look awesome.
Keegan has already played three games for the Kings in his first taste of Summer League and averaged a smooth 20 points per game on 51% shooting, including 48% from deep. And he did it on a variety of moves, including deep post-ups, pull-up jumpers, and excellent off-ball movement for a 6’8” guy:
Sacramento followers should be feeling great about their pick, caveats and all. Murray was considered a disappointing choice by some who would’ve preferred the explosive athleticism of Jaden Ivey, but after three exhibition games, Kings fans have bought up all of the Economy and Comfort+ seats on the Murray bandwagon. It will be expensive to hop on now, but there’s still room!
Of course he’s not going to average 20 points on 50/40 shooting for the season, but it’s always fun to see new additions show out.
Speaking of showing out, Chet has descended upon the NBA, and I’m not sure the world is ready:
Chet had 13 points (including three triples) and three blocks in the first quarter alone. He ended the night with 23 points, seven rebounds, six blocks, four threes, and four assists, a specific stat combination that had never been done before.
And the way he did it was thrilling. Behind-the-back pull-up threes. Half-spins into Dirkian one-footed fadeaways. Absorbing defensive contact with an oak-tree strength to swallow up attempts at the rim:
I’ll save deeper breakdowns for later. First glimpses, I always want to know what someone looks like at their best. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long to see it for Chet and Keegan.
This sort of exuberance is often criticized as being a Prisoner Of The Moment. It’s a real thing, particularly in today’s 24-hour news cycle that bombards you with coverage from every possible angle on every minuscule event. It can be detrimental to balanced, long-term-focused coverage; for example, Chet’s second game in the back-to-back wasn’t nearly as awe-inspiring. It turns out he probably won’t become the greatest NBA player of all time. But that’s not relevant here.
Rookie years are filled with ups and downs as the young players get used to the rigors of their new day job. There’ll be plenty of time to discuss weaknesses and failings later. So much of fandom is disappointment and tempering expectations; Summer League is a deep breath of fresh morning air, brimming with optimism. It’s good to be excited about the promise of rooks and the improvements of returning vets. For now, let’s just enjoy these early flashes, ignore the warts, and dream of what may come to pass.