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Stiffs NBA Draft series: Jamal Murray

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The Nuggets have a desperate need for shooting, and there's nobody better to provide it than Jamal Murray.

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The Denver Stiffs will be covering all of the top prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft in our Stiffs NBA draft series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of all the projected first round prospects.

Jamal Murray

Stats

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three Point % Free Throw %
20.0 5.2 2.2 1.0 0.3 2.3 45.4 40.8 78.3

Strengths

Shooting ability: Murray is the best pure three point shooter in a draft that has some really really good shooters in it. His scorching plus forty percent shooting from three point range isn't a product of a small sample size either as he averaged nearly eight attempts a game. Murray's quick release allows him to get his shot off even with defenders close by. Whether off the dribble or catch and shoot, Murray has shown the ability to drain threes at a high rate. His shooting form should be made into an instructional video and he has developed a step-back and floater that he also converts at a high rate.

Off ball movement: Murray originally was to be the primary ball handler for Kentucky, but a rocky start for him and an emergence of sorts for Tyler Ulis relegated Murray to the two guard spot where he thrived. Kentucky ran him through a myriad of screens off ball to create space and that coupled with his catch and shoot ability made him a deadly off ball scorer. Per Draft Express, he was the most efficient scorer off a screen in the entire NCAA last season.

Passing ability: While Murray didn't particularly excel as a point guard, there was a reason Kentucky pegged him as the primary ball handler to start the season. Murray's passing instincts and vision are very good for a 19 year old, and despite the fact that he's most comfortable when shooting the basketball, he also makes the smart decision and passes to a better shot when one is available.

Weaknesses

Athleticism: The biggest concern for Murray is his athleticism. His lateral quickness and leaping ability leave something to be desired which makes him somewhat of a liability on defense when quicker guards can get past him. Where he once found success in prep ball with his ability to drive to the basket, he found himself much more hindered in college when playing better athletes and at the NBA level his lack of athleticism could make him nothing more than a spot up shooter.

Ball Security: Murray has an alarmingly high assist to turnover ratio, especially for a player who was the secondary distributor on a team filled with talent. While his passing instincts and vision are solid, he tends to take risks with his passes which result in turnovers. Murray's carelessness with the basketball ultimately led to him becoming an off ball scoring dynamo so it's not all bad, but if he is to become a combo guard, or a secondary point guard at the NBA level he will have to do a better job of protecting the rock.

Defense: Murray's lack of lateral quickness kills him on defense. His positioning is not necessarily bad and the effort is there but he simply is too limited physically to be able to keep up with athletic scorers on the wing. In the NBA this will become an even bigger concern when Murray will have to defend some of the best athletes in the world. Also, with the fact that he's not a true point guard, Murray will have to play the two guard position often and he lacks the height and length to defend bigger twos effectively.

Pro Comparisons (best to worst)

Klay Thompson: Both Murray and Thompson make their living off ball and thrive in catch and shoot situations and three point shooting in general. Thompson is the max ceiling for Murray, and he probably at best could be the #2 guy on a championship team. Still, producing at a level of one of the splash brothers would be a phenomenal career for Murray. He doesn't quite have the same size or athleticism as Thompson, but his quick release, shooting ability and ability to create without the ball are very similar to Golden State's star two guard.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf: Murray's lighting quick release brings back flashes of Rauf tearing teams up in a navy Nuggets uniform. Both players make up for their smaller size with their scoring instincts and creativity around the basket when they find themselves in the paint.  Just like Rauf, while Murray has the ability to play some point, but he's at his best when he is scoring. The differences between the two is Rauf was quicker and a better ball handler. The two are also similarly limited on defense but ultimately if Murray could have a similar career it would be nothing to sneeze at (minus the whole national anthem deal).

Randy Foye: I just felt the collective cringe of all the Stiffs readers. The unfortunate truth is it's very easy to see how Murray could become nothing more than a Randy Foye. Each player is a three point shooter with limited athleticism. Foye was once a high draft pick himself but when faced with NBA level athletes, his inability to create or drive past defenders relegated him to a spot up shooter who resides on the fringes of the rotation. If Murray has similar difficulties he could face a similar fate, though it should be said that he has much better scoring instincts than Foye.

Fit with the Nuggets

Murray is probably the best possible player for the Nuggets to draft, outside of Brandon Ingram, from an ability and fit perspective. It's no secret that Denver's biggest weakness on offense last season was their ability to space the floor and convert from the three point line and there is no better answer for that than Kentucky's two guard. Murray would provide spacing for Emmanuel Mudiay to penetrate the lane and provide an elite level catch and shoot option for kick outs. Mudiay was at his best last season when playing alongside D.J. Augustin because having that extra shooter gives him so much more space to operate and having a secondary ball handler takes the pressure off Mudiay to create all the time. Additionally, Mudiay needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective on offense and Murray is at his best when he is off ball so the two make an excellent pairing.

One does have to wonder however just how thrilled coach Michael Malone will be to take on yet another guard who is a defensive liability. With the Nuggets having no discernible rim protector outside of Jusuf Nurkic, adding a guy like Murray will only make their defensive inefficiencies that much worse. He also creates somewhat of a log jam at the wing with Gary Harris, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari also demanding minutes. Since Murray can't really be trusted to be an NBA level point guard he doesn't do much in the way of replacing Augustin or Jameer Nelson.

Projected draft spot

SB Nation - 5 (Timberwolves)

Draft Express - 8 (Kings)

CBS Sports (Vecenie) - 8 (Kings)

Bleacher Report (Wasserman) - 6 (Pelicans)

NBADraft.net - 5 (Timberwolves)

Sports Illustrated - 6 (Pelicans)

Final Thoughts

The Nuggets should be aggressively pursuing getting into the #4 spot to ensure they can draft Murray, and there's even a possibility that Boston takes him at #3. Chances are though that he's not slipping down to #7 and the Nuggets can't let both Murray and Buddy Hield get away from them. While there would be some difficulties finding enough minutes for everyone, an elite shooter like Murray is exactly what the Nuggets need. I get that he is a liability on defense but the offensive explosion Murray provides far outweighs the cons. He's got a superstar ceiling, perhaps the highest of anyone outside the top 2 picks. At last year's draft the Nuggets tried to trade back into the lottery to snag Devin Booker and came up short, it would behoove them to not let another sharp shooting two guard from Kentucky slip through their grasp.