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Mile High Ceiling: Jamal Murray

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Jamal Murray won the starting point guard job during the middle of last season for the Denver Nuggets. Jamal had a run-of-the-mill rookie year, posting a paltry 9.9 PPG /2.1 RPG /2.6 APG on 40.4% from the field and 33.4% from 3 (48.3% EFG). After his performance last season there were questions about Murray coming into this season and people questioning if he could run the show in Denver.

Murray has quieted that discussion. He has started to exploit those strengths that made him the 7th pick in the draft just 2 seasons ago. Everywhere people hoped he would succeed: He’s beginning to flourish.

Improving nearly every facet of his game, Murray is averaging 16.0 PPG /2.7 RPG /3.5 APG on 45.3% from the field (+3.9%) and 36.5% from 3 (+3.1%). He’s also shooting 92.4% on free throws, bringing his TS% up to 57%.

But more than that statistical jump, you can *see* the improvement.

The Nuggets run a high post offense with a ton of pick and rolls and dribble handoffs so the ball can be in the hands of their wizard of a center Nikola Jokic. This means even though Murray plays point guard, he plays off the ball the majority of the time in the half court.

Murray is a good, potentially great, shooter. He possesses savvy footwork as an off-ball shooter allowing him to knock down shots from deep when playing off of Jokic. On spot-ups this season, he is scoring an impressive 1.14 points per possession. Murray is relocating off ball and setting himself for his quick release and is knocking them down this season with the best in the world.

Murray is even better off screens. When running off a screen this year, Murray is hitting 1.23 points per possession. The footwork and the patience here are key. Watch as the ball is in the air as Murray turns toward it, angling almost perpendicular to the basket. From there he plants both legs, keeping his right leg slightly forward, keeping his right hip in line with his shoulder, creating a straight line toward the hoop. And as the long arm of 7’0″ Brook Lopez reaches out, the 6’3″ Murray doesn’t rush, and smoothly knocks down the 25 footer.

Murray’s dynamite shooting off the ball instantly makes him the second biggest threat on one of the best offenses in the NBA. It’s Murray’s calling card, his crutch, it’s where his value lies and right now, where he’s hitting in stride.

But his improvement in all aspects of his game are what make him really fun to watch.

This season Murray has found cutters, roll men, and skip passers better than he did last year. He’s playing a more controlled game at this point, really can take advantage.

You can see with every game that basketball looks to be slowing down for him. The amount of confidence he has in his handle has escalated quite quickly. He is using his own shiftiness to shake defenders, and woo-baby can he shake and bake. One on one scoring in the NBA is worth millions and millions of dollars, and that is something Jamal can do.

Murray shoulders the responsibility of being the catalyst for an offense that has options, but no main scoring threat. Murray’s percentages are somewhat a product of the fact that he’s forced to shoot really tough shots. 20 percent of his shot attempts have come within the last 7 seconds of the shot clock. These sub optimal attempts happen to all players and making due is part of the game. But acknowledging this context allows us to understand why a shooter with such potential could have overall numbers that look so pedestrian.

But with moments like this,

The flashes are too hard to ignore. Jamal Murray is here to stay.

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About Josh Sinclair

General NBA and Bucks Lead contributor. Always down to talk buckets and why grilled cheese is the best. Twitter: @thejoshsinclair

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