Spurs take Washington guard Dejounte Murray at No. 29
SAN ANTONIO (AP) The San Antonio Spurs realized they needed to get younger and more athletic when a historic season ended in a disappointing early exit from the playoffs.
Dejounte Murray is ready to help.
San Antonio selected Murray, a 6-foot-5 guard out of Washington, with the 29th pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night as they enter another uncertain offseason.
The Spurs lost to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinals after winning a franchise-record 67 regular-season games, including matching a league record with a 40-1 home record. The Thunder's backcourt of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook exposed San Antonio's age and lack of athleticism, especially on the wing.
''With the age of our team, adding a young kid with some pretty extensive athletic ability and the ability to grow (is of great help),'' San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford said. ''I don't think there are expectations that he's going to come in and catch our world on fire, but we like the opportunity to grow.''
Murray averaged 16.1 points and 4.5 assists in his lone season with the Huskies. He shot just 29 percent on 3 pointers and 42 percent from the field. He can play either point guard or shooting guard, but is projected as a point guard in the NBA.
''I feel like I have the ability to play point guard, big, long, athletic,'' Murray said. ''I love defense. That's why I feel like I fit right in with their program, organization.''
Murray was projected to be drafted up to 10 spots earlier, but dropped to the five-time NBA champion Spurs.
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, who shares an agent with Murray and was talking with the youngster as he spoke with Texas reporters on a conference call, told the 19-year-old: ''You might not feel like you landed where you wanted, but you're with the best organization in the NBA.''
The Spurs have previously found an All-Star late in the draft, selecting Tony Parker with the 28th pick in 2001.
Parker developed into one of the league's elite players after being reduced to tears in his rookie season under San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich's coaching. Murray is expecting similar treatment from the veteran coach.
''He's a tough coach, that's what I'm looking forward to,'' Murray said. ''I don't want nothing given to me, I want to earn everything I get. I'm looking forward to them pushing me.''
The Spurs are hoping Murray can provide some depth on the wing, especially defensively, alongside Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
''You know, high motor, like Kawhi Leonard,'' Murray said. ''A dude that's willing to work, and I'll never settle for less, never get comfortable. I love working on my game, and I feel I can help them out in anything. I feel like my potential of doing everything and my faith and the heart I have for the game and the love I have for the game. I feel like I'll help them out really well.''
Murray, who has a 6-foot-9 1/2 wingspan, averaged 1.8 steals and 0.3 blocks.
San Antonio traded its second round pick, No. 59 overall, to the Sacramento Kings last season for Ray McCallum. The Spurs waived McCallum on Feb. 29 to sign Andre Miller in hopes the veteran point guard would provide depth for a deep postseason run that never materialized.
The unexpected early ouster and possible retirements of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili leave the Spurs unsure of next season's roster for the season straight year after nearly a decade of stability.
Ginobili declined his $2.9 million player option for the 2016-17 season, allowing him more time to mull retirement or free agency. The 14-year veteran is expected to return to the Spurs for another season if he opts not to retire.
San Antonio has nine players under contract, but Duncan has until June 29 to pick up the option on his contract and the Spurs have a team option on Boris Diaw. If they do not waive Diaw by June 30, his $7 million contract becomes guaranteed.
San Antonio owns the rights to 11 draft picks that are playing overseas, including last year's 26th pick, Nikola Milutinov of Serbia, and Davis Bertans of Latvia. Bertans, a 6-foot-10 forward with 3-point range, has expressed interest in coming to the NBA next season to play with the Spurs.