Jamal Murray's rookie season is in the books after he was selected at No. 7 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. From the minute he was drafted, questions about whether the Nuggets saw Murray as a point guard or a shooting guard were plentiful, especially considering that Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris were locked into starting roles at each guard position.
No one knew what the plan was with Murray but Denver ended up finding a potential cornerstone for their team going forward. Murray finished the season averaging 9.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 21.5 minutes per game and was the only Nuggets player to play in all 82-games this season.
It did not take long for Murray to make his mark as he exploded onto the scene, winning the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for October/November and was the first Nuggets' rookie to receive the award since Kenneth Faried in April 2012. In that month, Murray averaged 12.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists on 41.3 percent from the field and hit a scalding 42.7 percent of his threes. By the end of the season, the 20-year-old moved past Mudiay into the backup point guard role and even started at the one for a few games to finish out the year.
Overall, Murray was one of the better rookies to come out of the 2016 draft class and showed that he has the potential to be a cornerstone for the Nuggets for years to come. Look for a much bigger role for Murray in year two.
What grade would you give Jamal Murray's rookie season?
Harrison Wind (@NBAWind): A
Joel Rush (@NuggetsDenJoel): A
Kalen Deremo (@PrincePickaxe): B+
T.J. McBride (@BSN_McBride):B
Harrison: Murray lived up to the expectations I had of him as an instant-offense player off the bench for the Nuggets coming into this season. If he would have had more minutes his numbers would have been better. Some would have liked to see him shoot it at a better clip from three, but 33 percent from a rookie isn’t awful. His defense, which was better than expected pushes his grade up a letter as well.
Joel Rush: His season was not without its difficulties, but these were within normal parameters of rookie growing pains. More importantly, Murray showed the type of growth through those struggles which is so critical as an indicator of positive development, and which rightfully earned Michael Malone trust to expand his role and responsibilities. Murray’s relentless effort on defense, his ability to impact games by scoring in a dynamic variety of ways, and his impeccable work ethic point to a big leap next season.
Kalen Deremo: Murray didn’t put up the type of numbers we generally see from top lottery picks but he also only averaged 22 minutes per game off the bench which limited his impact. Nevertheless, Murray played solid defense for a rookie, improved all year long and had numerous outings where he looked like a star in the making. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.
T.J. McBride: Murray did not score or shoot the way that I thought he would but he did show that he does have more to his game than just being a volume scoring machine. He was pesky when playing on-ball defense, dissected opponents as the pick-and-roll facilitator, and showed an understanding as an off-ball cutter when playing alongside Jokic. Those extracurricular developments is why he gets a B but the lack of scoring punch is what keeps him from an A.
What aspect of Jamal Murray's game did he improve on the most this season?
Harrison: Leadership - Murray proved by the end of the season he can eventually be the alpha leader for Denver both in the locker room and on the court.
Joel: Maturity and composure. In his early months, Murray “looked like” a rookie – very excitable, doing the Blue Arrow gesture after every single made shot, clearly the new kid. By the end of the season in his starts at point guard, he was much more centered and genuinely confident, revealing a more grown up Murray who carried himself like a “real” NBA player, experienced beyond his years.
Kalen: Confidence. Murray was timid from November through about February but really started to let loose towards the end of the season. Confidence is such an important aspect of a shooter’s game so it’s encouraging to see him grow so much in this regard just over the course of a few months.
T.J.: Murray's transition from college basketball to the NBA was what inspired me. Point guard is, by far, the toughest position to learn for a young player. After playing mostly shooting guard at Kentucky, Murray was left with a steep learning curve but it never slowed his development. By the end of the season, Murray looked like a competent point guard who can run an offense or score in bunches. The game is still a tad sped up for Murray but the jump he made in his ability to keep up with the game around was his biggest improvement of the year.
What does Jamal Murray need to work on this upcoming offseason?
Harrison: Ball handling, and operating as a point guard. The Nuggets’ best shot at becoming a contender in the next few years is with Murray at point guard. While they’ll run a lot of things through Jokic, Muray has to be able to run the offense as well.
Joel: Improved chemistry with Jokic. Murray needs to learn how to operate better within the flow of an offense that should continue to go through Jokic. His tendency to want the ball will be invaluable at times, but when sharing the court with Nikola he will have to make a more concerted effort to defer to Denver’s “point-center” and trust higher quality scoring opportunities to come back to him.
Kalen: Murray needs to work on his handle and point guard skills so that should he be deemed starting point guard next season he’s ready for the challenge.
T.J.: Getting back to being a scoring machine. Murray is not just a lethal shooter but he can be a downright devastating. Once he can begin to shoot at a better percentage from three-point his offensive game should open up. For Denver to get better next season they need the explosive scoring Murray. An honorable mention goes to Murray getting healthy as well. Murray played a bug chunk of last season with a sports hernia and had surgery upon the ending of the season on his abdomen. Coming back fully healthy should be one of the most important aspects of the offseason for Murray.