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West Sacramento News-Ledger

Sacramento selects Keegan Murray in 2022 NBA Draft

Jun 24, 2022 12:00AM ● By Story and photos by Shaun Holkko, sports editor

Kings general manager Monte McNair speaks at a press conference to recap the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday, June 23 at the Golden 1 Center practice facility in Sacramento.

Sacramento selects Keegan Murray in 2022 NBA Draft [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

Kings trade away both second-round picks

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Anxious Kings fans waited outside the Golden 1 Center on Thursday afternoon in scolding 100-degree weather to see who the team would select in the 2022 NBA Draft.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stepped to the podium around 5:30 p.m. PST and announced, “With the fourth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Keegan Murray from the University of Iowa.” 

The reaction among the hundreds of Kings faithful that braved the heat to witness what could be a franchise-altering selection was mixed, to say the least. Some fans, like Aidan Becker, were displeased with the pick.

“(General manager Monte McNair) should have traded down if this was the guy,” Becker said. “Take best available over position as well. I think Murray will be a good player, but we should have gotten assets and traded down since a lot of teams were high on (Jaden) Ivey.”

As a sophomore with the Hawkeyes, Murray was selected to the All-Big Ten first-team after averaging 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in just under 32 minutes a game in 35 starts. He made a huge leap in scoring from his freshman year, increasing his points per game by 16.3, which is the largest increase in PPG by a Big Ten player in the last 25 seasons.

“Ultimately after sitting in the room with my front office staff, our whole staff, our scouting department, our analytics department, it became unanimous that Keegan Murray was the best player available and we jumped at the chance to select him,” McNair said in a press conference after the draft. “I think as we went along, and certainly as we got into the final days, it was just apparent to us that if Keegan Murray was there, that was going to be the best course of action for us.”

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The 21-year-old ranked fourth in the country in scoring average and first in total points (822) and field goals (307). He also displayed his versatility last season as the only collegiate player with at least 50 dunks and 50 3-pointers. Murray is the highest drafted player in Iowa history and the first Hawkeye to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft since 1998.

“They’re getting a winner first and foremost,” Murray said on the draft telecast after being chosen. “I’m very versatile. I hit a late growth spurt so I have a lot more room to grow in my game and I’m excited to get to that.”

At 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds, Murray cemented himself as one of the best power forwards in the nation in the 2021-22 season, winning the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award. Murray was also named a consensus first-team All-American and the Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

“I would’ve picked the guy that had the highest chance at being an All-NBA star in four years in case we have to blow things up (rather) than get a guy that fits our play-in squad and is ‘good,’” said Kings fan Collin Giordano.

In the second round of the draft, Sacramento was scheduled to pick at No. 37 and No. 49. However, McNair traded away both picks on Thursday, dealing the latter first. Just before 10 a.m. PST, the Kings exchanged the 49th pick for the rights to Sasha Vezenkov and cash consideration from the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to McNair. The 26-year-old was a first-team All-EuroLeague selection in 2022 and was selected 57th overall in 2017 by the Brooklyn Nets.

“Sasha, certainly the intrigue with him is his size with his shooting,” McNair said. “Somebody whose hit threes at a high clip but also can playmake and just shows his feel out there on the court. The fact that he’s done it at arguably the second best league in the world at an age where he’s just entering his prime, we love to see that.”

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Sacramento waited until they were on the clock at No. 37 to trade the other second-rounder. The Kings traded the pick to the Dallas Mavericks for two future second-round picks, according to McNair. NBA insider Marc Stein reports that the picks are for 2024 and 2028.

Following the conclusion of the draft, Sacramento reportedly agreed to deals with two undrafted free agents. The Kings agreed to a two-way deal with shooting guard Keon Ellis from Alabama,  The Athletic reported. Sacramento agreed to terms with forward Jeriah Horne from Tulsa, as reported by Yahoo Sports.

McNair will formally introduce Murray at a press conference on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.