February 28, 2011
After five months in exile in New Jersey, and nearly a week as the ostensible property of the Golden State Warriors, Troy Murphy(notes) has been bought out and will become a free agent as a result. This should be exciting news to teams like the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat or Orlando Magic. Assuming they forget that 2010-11 ever happened for Mr. Murphy.
In taking out Murphy's 18-game run this season with the Nets, the personnel brain trusts that run the teams listed above can drool over Murphy's 2009-10 campaign, one that saw him put up the best all-around stats of his career at an in-his-prime age of 29. Murphy cleared 28.5 percent of all available defensive rebounds, which might not sound like a ton, but it isn't far off his league-leading 32 percent mark in that category from 2008-09. He also hit two 3-pointers a game at a 38 percent yield from downtown, while rarely turning the ball over (just 1.5 per every 36 minutes of play).
In New Jersey for 2010-11, though, a different story was being hulaed. Murphy was clearly out of shape to start the season, which didn't endear him to coach Avery Johnson, and Johnson kept him chained to the bench. As a result of his iffy shape and inconsistent spot in the rotation, Murphy's percentages bottomed out, his defense was as suspect as ever, and even his rebounding took a slight hit.
So which Murphy will make himself available to the beasts of the East this week?
Smart evidence points to the guy we saw in Indiana. After all, players usually don't fall off the face of the earth in the months following their 30th birthday, and NBA contributors have long proven to be more effective with the more minutes they play. Take those minutes away, and even the per-minute production suffers badly. In choosing 288 2010-11 minutes over years of production entering this season, we'd be flying in the face of everything we know about this league.
Murphy's shape is another thing, though. League Pass devotees we may be, but Murphy was far from ubiquitous in his 288-minute turn this season, and he's played just one 10-minute turn in the 2011 calendar year. If he still isn't in game shape, even as a flat-footed shooting specialist, things could go awry. Because the Celtics, Heat and Magic aren't looking to sign a Terry Mills-type. Minus the jumper.
And even if Murphy has worked himself into shape, issues arise from a mid-season turnaround like that. Knee, back and plantar fasciitis injuries are common to players who turn November and December into their personal September and October time of shape-shiftin'. Confidence issues, unfamiliarity with the team's playbook, and the continual fight for minutes all could preclude Murphy from putting a team over the top.
That doesn't mean it can't happen, though. It just means that we're allowed to be slightly dubious when Murphy begins his season in earnest in early March.