The Nike Hoop Summit is an opportunity for young high school players to step onto the national stage and really capture the attention of scouts with their play. The scrimmage has more of an All-Star Game feel than a Western Conference conference finals feel, but most of the players do go out and try hard on both ends of the floor, knowing that this game is a big opportunity for them.
Current Nuggets Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay shone at the Nike Hoop Summit, with their play helping set them apart from their peers and give the fans a glimpse of what was to come. The guard starting opposite Mudiay on that World Team in 2014 was a combo guard from Kitchener, Ontario - Jamal Murray. He played a team high 32 minutes, scoring 10 points with two 3-pointers.
But his real "wow, this kid is something" moment came a year later, where Murray shone, helping the World team to a win. 30 points, 6 assists, and a 3 for 7 performance from distance and Murray made Kentucky and NBA fans anxious to see more of him.
Admittedly, I tuned in to watch Ben Simmons in that game, and he was impressive, but Murray was something else. His touch from the perimeter made me excited for his NBA potential, as well as his ability to create plays. He's an offensive talent, and can score in a variety of ways on the court.
Murray averaged 7.7 3-point attempts per game for the Kentucky Wildcats this year, forming a dynamic backcourt duo with 5-foot-9-inch point guard Tyler Ulis. Murray and Ulis' game elevated in conference play, and the freshman guard had a 12 game streak with 20 points or more in SEC play.
Murray plays with his own style, but there are elements of his game that can carry over to the NBA. He can penetrate into the paint and finish with either hand, scooping up layups, bouncing jumpers on glass, or dropping in a floater if the big man steps up. He is unpredictable at times, but he uses that "what is he going to do" to help create separation and get his shot off in space.
His outside shot is sweet like candy, and he's money shooting off of screens. Kentucky would send Ulis into the paint and Murray to the corner, and their guards would just rack up points. Murray has adopted the Wes Matthews Jr. celebration after a triple, drawing an arrow from his quiver and firing it at the bench - so great.
He wasn't the primary ballhandler for Kentucky, with Ulis playing at a high level in that role, but he's a capable playmaker. He struggles to create separation against athletic guards, and if he struggles against college talent, it's going to continue to be a problem once he reaches the NBA.
That's the biggest knock on him, and has been for a while - his athleticism. He can dunk, crossover, and run plenty well, but his lack of quickness has been an issue for him. He can't jump out of the gym like a Will Barton, or move quickly with the ball like D.J. Augustin, as a comparison, but he is intelligent enough to play within the role given to him by the coaches.
Defenses can adapt to him if his shooting touch isn't on. I have him projected as a 40 percent 3-point shooter in the NBA, and if he can continue to work on his ability to shoot from the wings off screens and dribble handoffs, that number could go up higher.
The thing I like the most about Murray is his work ethic. His father is a long-time martial arts practitioner, and taught Murray discipline and mental toughness to help him improve as a basketball player. He meditates before games, and is constantly spending time in the gym, watching film and working with coaches. He cares deeply about winning, and you can tell that he's a competitor.
When Michael Malone talks about giving effort, being competitive, that's the kind of player he's talking about.
If Murray is available when the Nuggets are on the board, they should be thrilled to be able to pick a player like Murray. Murray has the ability to be another ballhandler if the Nuggets want to utilize two-point guard lineups, and his ability to stretch the floor is a skill the Nuggets need on their team to become more competitive. If he's part of a reserve lineup, he'll be able to get more experience leading an offense against elite competition, and improve in that part of his game.
I personally would be ecstatic about a second unit of Murray at lead guard, Barton at off guard, Wilson Chandler on the wing, with Darrell Arthur and Jusuf Nurkic manning the post positions. The Nuggets would be a better team with Murray on their roster than they are today, and he's in the top three on my board for the draft.