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A very, very early All-Star case for Dejounte Murray

It’s only 15 games into the season, but San Antonio’s point guard might on track to earn his first bid.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

There is admittedly a lot of time left until the NBA All-Star Game. To be precise, there’s three months, or 13-ish weeks, or 92 days (or 44 games if you’re a Spurs fan) until the 24 best players in the NBA descend upon Cleveland on Feb. 20, 2022.

But every team in the league has played at least 15 games now, or 18% of their schedule, which means we should have a little bit of an idea of who’s off to a decent start and who’s not.

Dejounte Murray falls in the former group. The “sporadically anointed point guard of the future turned lead guard of the present” is averaging 18.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game, all of which are career highs. He’s become San Antonio’s go-to scorer and best defender — someone Pop wants to play 48 minutes a night.

Murray hasn’t been to an All-Star Game before. But keep in mind: he doesn’t need to be one of the top 10 guards in the NBA to earn his first invite. He just has to be one of the top five or six in the West.

He’s proven to be that in multiple categories. Among Western Conference guards, Murray ranks 15th in points, third in rebounds, fifth in assists and second in steals per game.

But realistically, if Murray is going to be a first-time All-Star, he’s going to have to beat out a couple of incumbents. Compared to former Western Conference All-Star guards, Murray ranks second in rebound percentage, grabbing 11% of the Spurs’ boards. And compared to former Western Conference All-Star guards, Murray ranks fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio, producing 3.25 dimes for every turnover he makes (Andre Iguodala is one of the players ranked in front of him).

The biggest knocks against Murray’s résumé are that he doesn’t score enough and that he’s too boring of a player — that there are too many other windmill-dunkers and 3-point splashers higher up to consider someone whose points come from rim-grazers and midrange pull-ups.

Points aren’t what makes a star, though. A player’s impact is. Kyle Korver was an All-Star in 2015 not because he was averaging 12.1 points a game but because the Atlanta Hawks were that much better with him on the court, warping entire defenses just by having him stand in the corner.

Murray’s impact on the Spurs is tough to match. San Antonio has a net rating of 2.0 points per 100 possessions in the 517 minutes Murray is on the court and a net rating of -11.5 points per 100 possessions in the 208 minutes Murray is off the court. That’s a 13.5-point swing!

A quick look at the numbers if we apply the same process to every 2021 Western Conference All-Star guard:

  • Steph Curry 17.1
  • Damian Lillard 9.0
  • Devin Booker 8.2
  • Donovan Mitchell 7.3
  • Mike Conley 4.0
  • Chris Paul 3.6
  • Luka Doncic -20.0

Curry is the only one who’s had a bigger statistical impact than Murray so far this year.

If you go by all of Murray’s per-100 stats, he’s having a better regular season than Ben Simmons was having last year. Simmons was voted to the All-NBA Third Team and All-Defensive First Team.

Dejounte likely won’t be voted into one of the Western Conference’s starting spots — those will probably go to Steph and Luka, and rightfully so. That leaves two reserve spots designated for guards and two wildcard spots that could go to anybody.

Fifteen games into the season, Murray’s built a realistic case to claim one of them.