Dejounte Murray drama proves Bulls made the right decision with Lonzo

Nikola Vucevic, Dejounte Murray, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic, Dejounte Murray, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

As the dog days of the offseason continue on, one of the most interesting developments has been the resurgence of interest in pro-am basketball even amongst casual NBA fans. Chicago Bulls fans have been treated to more exciting basketball as DeMar DeRozan and other NBA superstars like LeBron James and Trae Young have helped rejuvenate crowds at the Drew League and other recreational leagues.

However, not everything has been all sunshine and rainbows. In one of the most random and unexpected storylines that have emerged, Dejounte Murray and No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero have already developed a budding rivalry before Banchero has even logged a single minute in the league. In rec league play, the two exchanged altercations on several occasions which have proven to be a seeming turning point for Murray’s perception across the league.

Even after the game had finished, Murray followed his performance up with not one, but two questionable comments online, to say the least. After being traded to the Atlanta Hawks, Murray seems eager to assume the role of a tenacious in-your-face villain, in the same vein as other controversial players like Patrick Beverley and Draymond Green.

Murray likely feels relieved he can finally say and do whatever he wants without the watchful eye of Greg Popovich hovering over him. I, on the other hand, am just relieved that the Bulls instead traded for Lonzo Ball, after the team was linked to Murray trade rumors last summer.

The Chicago Bulls made the right choice by opting to trade for Lonzo Ball over Dejounte Murray.

A heated rivalry with  Banchero wasn’t the only antics Murray would get up to in pro-am play, as he embraced a street ball mentality and actively looked to embarrass his opponents at any given opportunity.

In the modern NBA where the league’s superstars all appear to be friends instead of adversaries, I fully support players taking a step in the opposite direction and embracing the competitive spirit of the game. But given the fact Murray’s facing off against amateur competition instead of real NBA talent, it’s easy to see why these incidents have rubbed many people the wrong way.

Given how many people seemed to overlook Dejounte while in San Antonio, it makes sense that he’d want to finally be respected like the (replacement) All-Star that he is. He’s similar to DeMar DeRozan in that aspect, where his undeniable talent and high level of production were undervalued by the media for no other reason than he plays for the Spurs.

The similarities between the two end there, however, as DeRozan is as humble and reserved a star as you’ll ever see, while Dejounte clearly feels like he still has something left to prove. This may bode well for his individual success and earning potential, but it’s not what a true title contender needs from him as a second or third option.

A year ago, I wrote about how the Chicago Bulls should target Murray in trade talks, instead of Lonzo Ball. As the 2021-22 season progressed, that seemed like a take that was aging well. Now, I’m not so sure.

Yes, Dejounte outperformed Lonzo statistically while filling a much larger role for the Spurs. I don’t think Lonzo is capable of doing what Murray just did. But I’m also quite confident Dejounte could fill the same hole as Lonzo has for the Bulls.

Despite a loud-mouthed father in the media, Lonzo has thoroughly proven himself to be a professional with a quiet and humble demeanor. He’s embraced his role and become one of the league’s elite perimeter defenders and 3-point shooting threats.

Lonzo’s shooting is definitely what sets him apart as a better fit for the Bulls, as he knocked down 42.3% of his 7.4 attempts from beyond the arc per game, compared to Dejounte’s 32.7% on 4.3 attempts per game. Murray was also more of an on-ball scoring threat, as less than 20% of his 2-point field goals were assisted. Meanwhile, over 40% of Ball’s 2-point field goals were assisted. With Chicago’s “Big 3” already locked in, this makes Ball a much better fourth option than a player who needs the ball in his hands to contribute like Dejounte.

I have to give Dejounte the credit he’s due, as he does edge Lonzo out in certain areas. He’s on a more team-friendly contract and is definitely a better rebounder. He’s also one of the NBA’s best defenders but lacks the size to switch onto larger forwards the way Ball can.

They’re certainly close enough in talent to make the conversation worth having. In a vacuum, it would be hard to argue against Dejounte being the better player. Now that he’s got the spotlight on him in Atlanta, Murray just needs to let his talent speak for itself. When it comes to his fit on the Chicago Bulls, however, I’m taking a healthy Lonzo Ball every time.

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