‘Who’s better today? Keegan’: Fran McCaffery lauds, defends Keegan Murray ahead of 2022 NBA draft

In an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio with hosts Evan Cohen and Amin Elhassan, Iowa head men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery went to bat for his former superstar Keegan Murray.

While he’s been widely considered a surefire 2022 NBA draft lottery pick, Murray hasn’t quite been talked about in the same light as the perceived top three entering this week’s draft. That perceived top trio includes Auburn forward Jabari Smith, Gonzaga forward Chet Holmgren and Duke forward Paolo Banchero.

Instead, Murray has typically been regarded by NBA draft analysts as part of that next wave of players one tier down. Don’t tell that to his former head coach, though.

“Well, you know, I agree with what you said about the first three, but I don’t in any way think that those guys are better than him, any one of the three of them. So, assuming you’re right, which it certainly seems like you are, I would expect him to go four, but, you know, I just don’t look at any of those three guys and say, ‘Okay, that guy’s better than Keegan.’ No, they’re not,” McCaffery said in his appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

The hosts followed up by noting that there’s a difference between saying a player is better than Murray versus one of the perceived top three making more sense as an NBA franchise looks to build for its longterm future.

McCaffery was then asked if he could understand an NBA team drafting any of that perceived top three over Murray, while also not directly meaning that an NBA team thinks that player is better than Murray today.

“I think that’s a fair question, okay, because like, you know, I think, especially with Chet (Holmgren), okay, you look at him and say, ‘I get it, alright.’ You know, he could be a generational talent with Kevin Durant’s size and shooting ability, and really good feel and he’s a rim protector.

“You know, obviously, the only question with him has always been his body. You see, I’ve been watching that kid…I mean, we recruited him hard, so I watched him as a sophomore, as a freshman in high school. So, the answer to that question, yeah, do I get him? Yeah, I get him. Who’s better today? Keegan. You know, so, you could say, ‘Okay, well, maybe he’s better tomorrow, too.’ He’s better today. He’s got a chance to be better tomorrow,” McCaffery said.

Nobody can blame McCaffery for going to bat for Murray as arguably the top player in this 2022 NBA draft and as a player that should be garnering the same type of attention heading into draft night that Smith, Holmgren and Banchero have enjoyed. After all, Murray just finished a season where he averaged the most points by a Power Five player at 23.5 points per game.

The 6-foot-8, 225 pound forward did a little bit of everything for the Hawkeyes last season and is described by a number of basketball analysts as the most “NBA-ready” player in this year’s draft. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said as much recently.

“The player that is most NBA-ready, who you can plug in right now, is Keegan Murray. He is an incredibly smart player. Keegan is mature enough to step into the NBA and perform at a high level right away,” Bilas said.

Murray also just polished off a season where he averaged the second-most rebounds per game by a Big Ten player with 8.7 boards per night and he shot 39.8% from 3-point range. Mix that offensive package in with the ability to defend the one through four positions comfortably at the next level and someone is getting a heck of a talent.

It will certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out for Murray on Thursday night. The top five in the 2022 NBA draft order looks like this: No. 1 overall is the Orlando Magic, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the No. 2 pick, the Houston Rockets have pick No. 3, the Sacramento Kings own pick No. 4 and the Detroit Pistons have pick No. 5.


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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire