HomeBasketball TodayTrey Murphy III of the Pelicans tormenting opponents' benches

Trey Murphy III of the Pelicans tormenting opponents’ benches

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The Pelicans are perhaps the most dangerous team this side of Denver now that Trey Murphy III is back on track.

Shooting slump? That was no shooting slump a few weeks ago, just an assassin adjusting aim on an old weapon. At least, that’s how Trey Murphy III’s pinpoint daggers from beyond the arc have to feel for opposing bench units. The New Orleans Pelicans are starting to run away from teams once the third-year pro checks into the game.

The best part is the Pelicans are getting their preferred shots without crowding each other’s space. It’s showing up on the scoreboard. The 22-point lead in a road win over the Atlanta Hawks was never in doubt, even if it was the most competitive game for the team in a week. The Pelicans were up 55-20 on the Sixers before halftime. According to ESPN Stats and Info, New Orleans was only the third team to have a lead of 35 points or more in three consecutive games in the last 25 years. James Harden’s Houston Rockets pulled it off in 2019; Tracy McGrady’s Orlando Magic got hot back in 2001.

Murphy III is the seventh player in NBA history to post multiple double-digit three-point games. The 23-year-old is the first player in New Orleans franchise history with three games of nine or more threes made. Murphy III is also the only player in franchise history with multiple games of 10+ made shots from beyond the arc. He will not win Most Improved Player or Sixth Man of the Year going by current odds in Vegas but the sight of Murphy III at the scorer’s table is making rival coaches miserable.

The starting five (Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas, Herb Jones) are still sporting a negative Net Rating (-0.8) in mid-March. When Murphy III replaces Zion Williamson as the first sub off the bench, the team’s Net Rating jumps to an outstanding +19.3. The fifth-most played lineup goes small with Nance Jr. replacing Valanciunas. McCollum, Ingram, Jones, Murphy III, and Nance Jr. have a +28.3 Net Rating in an almost 60-minute sample size.

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Pelicans, Trey Murphy III stick with even-keeled approach

New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III (25) reacts after scoring against the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at State Farm Arena.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Murphy III’s shooting unlocks so many extra rotational options for the Pelicans. Willie Green getting to work with a fully healthy squad is one thing. Giving Green and the Pelicans Big Three All-Star options off the bench is almost unfair. Like any available open shots, the franchise will take the luck and opportunity how it comes. The work will pay off, as evidenced by Murphy III’s averages of late. There was no overhaul needed after knee surgery. The Virginia alum credited an even-keeled approach for the current success.

“I would just say staying even,” Murphy said. “That’s been the biggest thing for me my entire life. Not getting too high, not getting too low no matter what happens. If you work hard and treat the game right, eventually things are going to happen for you. That’s how it’s been my entire life. I knew eventually I would get out of it.”

Green was not worried either. Much like McCollum’s wine, Green’s Pelicans historically get better throughout the season.

“I knew he (Murphy) was going to figure it out at some point,” Green said. “From time to time, I may talk to him. But him and (coach) Corey Brewer have done a great job of refocusing and going out and doing the little things. That’s what it takes sometimes when your shot isn’t falling. Concentrating on winning plays, and winning habits. There is a lot you can do to contribute to winning without scoring.”

Murphy III is averaging 14 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He is attempting 10 three-pointers per game over the past 10 games, good for fourth-most in the NBA, and making 41%. No one else above nine attempts per game is hitting above a 40% clip.

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His defense has improved drastically since being drafted. Now that Murphy III is more dependable on the defensive end, it makes deploying him more in offensive-leaning lineups easier to justify. Going by the current hot streak, it’ll be impossible for any playoff opponent to ignore Murphy III even if the Big Three are threatening to run away with another blowout win. That pick-your-poison postseason dilemma is a miserable position for any coach, even the reigning champions.

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About the Author

Chris Dodson has covered Louisiana high school and college basketball in spurts for over a decade. A basketball lifer from the bayou, his gumbo-stirring form matches his elbow jumper celebrations. Fast enough for varsity hoops, tall enough for a soccer scholarship. He has words and will travel, just not on the court.


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