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Trey Murphy III declares for NBA Draft: Breaking down the decisions facing TM3, Bennett

trey murphy uva louisville
Trey Murphy III with the finish at the rim. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Virginia junior forward Trey Murphy III announced Tuesday that he will test the NBA Draft waters, with the blessing of coach Tony Bennett.

“After long and deliberate discussions with my parents, and after speaking with Coach Bennett, I will declare for the 2021 NBA Draft while maintaining my eligibility,” Murphy tweeted on Tuesday. “This decision was made with my faith as my foundation. Playing in the NBA has always been a dream of mine. A goal that I want to accomplish. Ultimately I thank God for giving me the ability to play basketball.”

Murphy, a 6’9” wing, averaged 11.3 points per game for UVA in 2020-2021, shooting 50.3 percent from the field, 43.3 percent from three-point range and 92.7 percent from the free-throw line.

Murphy also established himself on the defensive end, earning a “very good” rating from Synergy Sports, which had him allowing opponents 0.772 points per possession this past season.

Murphy is not hiring an agent, meaning he can go through the pre-draft evaluation process, interview and audition for teams and at combines, but still retain his eligibility should he decide to withdraw his name from draft consideration.

The 2021 draft is being held a month later than usual, on July 29, and the deadline for players to withdraw is July 19, which could pose a quandary for Bennett, who does still have three scholarships open for 2021-2022, if he were to choose to use any for the upcoming season.

The additions of ECU transfer Jayden Gardner, a 6’8” forward, and Indiana transfer Armaan Franklin, a 6’4” guard, seemed to signal an end to the recruiting process for next season.

Gardner figures into a frontcourt rotation with redshirt freshman Kadin Shedrick and redshirt sophomore Francisco Caffaro, and Franklin factors into a deep backcourt rotation with point guards Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman and wings Kody Stattmann, Carson McCorkle and incoming freshman Taine Murray.

Murphy can play three, four and five on both ends of the floor, and with him back for 2021-2022, Virginia would be an easy ACC favorite and consensus Top 10 team nationally going in.

If Murphy hears what he needs to hear to get him to go ahead with the draft, that would leave an obvious hole for Bennett and his staff, who have been through this before.

Mamadi Diakite, in the wake of Virginia’s run to the 2019 national title, tested the draft waters that spring before deciding to return for his redshirt senior season.

The 6’9” Diakite used the 2019-2020 season to his advantage, showcasing his ability to play from the perimeter, shooting 36.4 percent from three-point range on his way to a team-leading 13.8 points per game, and though he went undrafted in the summer, he signed a two-way deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, put up big numbers in the G League and is now getting occasional rotation minutes with the Bucks.

Jay Huff, then, tested the waters in the spring of 2020 before ultimately returning, and like Diakite, Huff was able to step up his game in his redshirt senior season, increasing his scoring from 8.5 points per game to 13.0, while shooting 58.5 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three-point range.

Murphy could very well be seeking simply to get real-time evaluations from NBA scouts and front-office personnel to get a handle on what he needs to work on to get himself more NBA-ready for 2022 or 2023.

His name is popping up in some mock drafts, as high as 31st in the most recent USA Today rendering, though there are several mock drafts that leave him going undrafted, so at the outset, at least, that’s the risk.

Another risk: second-round contracts aren’t necessarily guaranteed. They can be, and often are, for players picked in the first several picks of the second round, but guys who have their names called later in the second round often to have to go the two-way deal route, which means getting paid G League money when you’re in the G League – $35,000 a year, pro-rated – and NBA minimum money when you’re in the Association $449,115 a year, again, pro-rated.

For a frame of reference, what that worked out to for Kyle Guy, who left with a year of eligibility in 2019 and was a second-round pick, was a total salary of $79,568 in the 2019-2020 season, which he split between the G League and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Another frame of reference: Ty Jerome, a late first-round pick in 2019, was paid $2.2 million in his rookie year, with a minimum guarantee of $4.5 million for the first two years, and his five-year contract tops out at $6.2 million annually in 2023-2024, assuming his team picks up the options for Years 3, 4 and 5.

And you don’t even want to know what De’Andre Hunter, the fourth pick in 2019, is getting, but since you asked: Hunter, being at the top of the draft, is guaranteed $22.3 million, averaging $7.4 million for each of his first three years, and Year 5 of his deal tops out at $13 million.

I bring this up to illustrate the complexity of the decision facing Murphy, who right now is in the second-round pick to undrafted free agent window, but certainly seems to have the upside to be a first-round pick.

Kyle Guy made $79,000 as a rookie; De’Andre Hunter made $7 million.

Second-round picks (Malcolm Brogdon, Joe Harris) and undrafted free agents (Fred VanVleet) can eventually earn ungodly sums playing basketball.

They can also bounce out of the league, barnstorm around Europe and Asia for a couple of years, and end up with much more reasonable sums in coaching, broadcasting or regular-people jobs.

This is what is facing Murphy, as he weighs going pro now versus the value of coming back to Charlottesville, working on his game – he needs to be more aggressive, take the ball to the hole every so often – getting stronger under strength and conditioning coach Mike Curtis – and turning what he’s hearing now, that he’s a second-round pick to UFA guy, to being the floor, with his ceiling being 2022 lottery pick.

Story by Chris Graham


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