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UVA’s Trey Murphy drafted No. 17 by New Orleans Pelicans

By Jerry Ratcliffe

trey murphy

Trey Murphy III. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

The New Orleans Pelicans needed a new approach after finishing 31-41 this past season.

On Tuesday, the club hired a new coach in Willie Green, a previous assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns. On Thursday night, the Pelicans immediately upgraded their offensive firepower by drafting former Virginia standout Trey Murphy III, with the 17th pick of the NBA Draft. Actually, Memphis drafted for New Orleans due to a previous arrangement.

Murphy is a bit of a Cinderella story. Having transferred from Rice to Virginia prior to last season, Murphy expected to redshirt, and instead ended up starting for the ACC regular season champions.

When he declared for the draft, some questioned  his decision. His name was missing from any NBA Draft projections, but his stock enjoyed a meteoric rise, particularly after the NBA Combine when he impressed scouts, coaches, and front offices around the league.

Murphy not only jumped from possible second round to late first round, but all the way up to lottery pick conversations. At No. 17, he was selected just outside that realm, but still a high draft pick.

New Orleans executive vice president David Griffin has shouted ever since the NBA regular season ended that the Pelicans’ No. 1 priority was to upgrade the team’s outside shooting. Well, that happened when New Orleans took Murphy.

The Pelicans aren’t allowed to comment on picking Murphy until the trade between Memphis and New Orleans becomes official on Aug. 6.

However, in gaining the 21-year-old Murphy, they’ve taken Division I’s only player to post the coveted “50-40-90” shooting gem this past season. Murphy made 50.3 percent of his field goals, 43.3 percent of his 3-point attempts, and 92.7 percent of his free throws. He was considered the best spot up shooter in the draft.

Murphy is 6-9, and owns a 7-1 wing span, and is a decent defender, which is something New Orleans will welcome. The Pelicans ranked in the bottom third of the league defensively.

Green believes New Orleans is on the verge of raising its profile in the NBA, much like his previous club, Phoenix, which rose to the league finals this past season.

Murphy joins a roster that has plenty of star power in 2021 All-Star Zion Williamson and 2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram.

Still, the Pelicans were near the bottom of the NBA in 3-point percentage and 3-point attempts. Murphy connected on 41.7 percent of his 127 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, which helps space the floor and allows Williamson more room to operate inside.

While Murphy is not known as a creator, he may not need to be with the Pelicans. He’s considered a good cutter and has explosion at the rim. He also is a versatile defender, who can guard positions 1 through 4, another welcome skill for New Orleans. The Pelicans have been among the league’s bottom 10 on defense in back-to-back seasons.

Murphy is the fourth first-round pick during the Tony Bennett era at Virginia, and the third in the past three drafts.

Two other Wahoos are hoping to get drafted on Friday, Sam Hauser and Jay Huff.

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