This is not a reactionary piece, this is not a case of someone looking for a story where one does not totally exist. Last night only two players for Duke posted a plus-minus rating that was positive and one of them was freshman forward Alex Murphy.
Murphy’s role in this team has been an enigma. He started both preseason games and received a ton of playing time in the lone game Seth Curry sat out which implied that Mike Krzyzewski saw him as someone who was more valuable in place of those minutes than in place of someone like Josh Hairston or Amile Jefferson at the power forward position. I made this case earlier in the year and pinned his lack of minutes on the similarity between his game and Ryan Kelly‘s. This was thrown out the window when Kelly went down and Murphy’s minutes hardly even budged.
So now firmly in the Kelly-less era, why has Duke not attempted to work Murphy into the role he will almost assuredly assume over the summer anyway? The loss to Virginia was a perfect example of why Murphy needs to be a bigger part of the rotation as he came into the game for nine of the best minutes we saw throughout the game. The numbers are unassuming but the plus-minus factor is one that has to be considered because, you know, scoring more than the other team is important.
Murphy posted a plus-minus rating of +3 according to SCACCHoops numbers, good for second on the team behind Curry’s +6. Hairston, the choice at power forward of late, played just 15 minutes with a -4 rating and if not for his four fouls and one turnover would have posted a completely empty box score. The tempo-adjusted stats don’t help Hairston either, as Murphy’s 8.9 points/40 min and 2.0 game score (third-highest on the team) flesh out how more Murphy is something that has to be considered.
In fact, the best lineup Duke put on the floor last night was the Muprhy, Curry, Rasheed Sulaimon, Mason Plumlee and Quinn Cook lineup from the end of the game. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise since Murphy is essentially a more athletic version of Kelly on the offensive end (defensively its no comparison). Also helping Murphy’s case is the team’s second best lineup (+3) which featured him alongside Hairston, Plumlee, Cook and Curry.
This is a one-game sampling from a statistical angle, but the point is evident. Murphy needs more time and Duke has nothing to lose by giving it to him.