The Denver Nuggets have selected Kentucky guard Jamal Murray at No. 7 overall.
Murray, 19, averaged 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game on 40.8 percent shooting from three last year for Kentucky. He fills an immediate need for shooting in the Nuggets’ backcourt.
It’s easiest to start with Murray’s shot because, well, it’s textbook. Perfect, compact form, great elevation, balance, and sound mechanics that look the same on nearly every attempt. He rivals Buddy Hield as the best shooter in this draft and it’s scary to think how much his shot would improve if he had three more years to work on it, as Hield did. Murray averaged 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game during his Freshman year at Kentucky. He shot 45.4 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three.
Murray is lethal when spotting up off screens and pindowns and is able to get his shot off clean and quick; a necessary skill for a two-guard who’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-4.5. Murray shot the ball at a 56 percent clip coming off screens last year at Kentucky, per DraftExpress and is just as comfortable spotting up off the catch. What jumped out to me when watching film on Murray was how effortlessly he moves on the court. He’s able to navigate tightly around screens on offense and run his man off picks unlike most college freshman are able to at that age.
The 19-year-old is also a skilled finisher around the basket, despite not having incredible athleticism. He’s stronger than he looks at 200 pounds and takes contact well at the rim. Murray played the one at times while at Kentucky, but the two is likely going to be his main position at the next level because of how well he moves off the ball and his ability in catch and shoot situations.
He’s capable leading the break and has great instincts but still needs to improve his handle to spend big minutes at the point. Besides his shooting, ball handling is Murray’s primary focus leading up to the draft.
“I gotta work on a lot of ball-handling, two balls, one ball,” Murray told DraftExpress. “Just try and improve on that make sure my dribble is crisp showing that I can play the point guard position.”
Murray also mentioned that he wants to be a “complete guard,” meaning he can play both backcourt positions. Even though he may end up flourishing as a two, he wants to put the thought in general manager’s minds that he’s versatile enough to play both effectively.
On defense, Murray is a work in progress. He gives good effort and is able to stay with his man around screens but seems to lose touch when the offensive player attacks the rim or puts the ball on the floor. He often comes out of his stance when he’s guarding on the perimeter in one on one situations and he doesn’t have great lateral speed. Offensive players with quick first steps are frequently able to get by him on the perimeter when they look to penetrate.
Murray is definitely a guard who looks for his offense first in isolation situations or when coming off screens. He has decent vision, but doesn’t have a great first step and uses his strength, rather than quickness to get by defenders. He’s more of a straight line drive penetrator than savvy ball handler.
He didn’t post great steal numbers at Kentucky but has decent awareness on the defensive end. He can jump passing lanes and lead the break going the other way.
More to come…