As part of Denver Stiffs’ transition from Denver Nuggets postseason coverage to offseason coverage, staff members will be conducting End of Season Reviews for all 17 players on the roster. There will continue to be news, NBA draft, free agency, and trade articles, but over the next three weeks, an accompanying End of Season review (or two) will also post every week day.
Today’s review: Jamal Murray.
The 2019-20 Nuggets season was one of the most successful seasons in franchise history, and a large part of that success came from the outstanding production from Jamal Murray, who took a step into stardom during his fourth season in the league.
At the beginning of the season, I wrote that the key to the season was the team becoming Jamal Murray’s team. While the best player on the team is undoubtedly Nikola Jokic, I do think that the team has taken on more of the identity of their star point guard, not their star center. They are an incredibly mentally tough team, a team that isn’t afraid to compete against the top talent in the league, and will never give up on a game.
The Murray from the regular season was a more mature and experienced version of 2019 Murray, but after the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the country and forced the NBA to finish their season at DisneyWorld, he transformed into one of the premier point guards in the league. Tim Connelly paid the former No. 7 overall pick like a superstar last summer, and this season he showed that his play can justify the contract he received.
Jamal Murray’s Per Game Stats
Murray started the season slow, as he is wont, but at least this year he can point to a variety of injuries that limited him. Dings and dents slowed him down, with ankle, core, back, and wrist injuries keeping him down all season. He had nights where he looked unstoppable, as he did in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies when he dropped 39 points on Ja Morant, and other nights where he made the opposing point guard look unstoppable, like when Trae Young dropped 42 points and 11 assists in a Hawks win.
He missed a stretch of games in January after spraining his ankle against the Charlotte Hornets, but when he came back, the Nuggets went on a torrid run, closing out February with a nice bunch of wins.
The bubble ... oh man. What a stretch of games for Jamal Murray. 50 points, then 42 points, then 50 again? 40 points in Game 7 against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to complete a second 3-1 comeback? Leaving his heart on the court against the Lakers and the officials, giving every ounce of energy trying to overcome the odds and carry the Nuggets to the Finals? Yeah, the kid is special.
Season Grade: A
When Murray was healthy, he was outstanding. He figured out how to solve defenses in the playoffs, in a situation where the games are the most intense. He has become a better defender, he’s a better game manager, and he’s a three-level scoring threat. He’s only 23 years old, and he’s easily one of the top 30 players in the league. The Nuggets need to help make sure that they can ease his load by finding ballhandlers to play alongside him at times so he doesn’t have to be on-ball as much, but that only makes him more potent of a weapon on offense.
There’s lot of plays to consider HAHA just kidding it’s the 360° layup against Rudy Gobert.
Truly though, he really had such an incredible season, it’s worth rewatching his entire season highlight package.
What’s Next for Jamal Murray
The next step is making an All-Star Game for Jamal Murray. In order to help the team take another step forward, however, Murray needs to figure out how to play alongside Michael Porter Jr. He’s already had a monumental challenge of having to figure out how to play alongside Jokic — the inverted pick and rolls, the need to constantly be on alert for an incoming pass, the timing for passes when his center dives to the rim — but now he needs to figure out how to incorporate a shooter who may have better touch on his jump shot than he does.
Incorporating MPJ into the team more fully should be the top priority for the coaching staff in the offseason, and the player driving the bus is Murray as the starting point guard. If he can figure out playing with the young forward, that will help him rack up more assist numbers, and that’ll help create media buzz to push him into the All-Star game. He’s figured out what he needs to do to help the Nuggets beat teams. He plays like someone whose sole mission each night is to destroy the opposing team and walk away with a win.
Murray is my favorite player on the team. I love the way he attacks opposing defenses, I love his jump shot, and I love his attitude on the court. He’s an incredibly mentally tough player, and I love seeing him gain the wisdom that comes with experience. He’s a special player, and I’m really glad he’s going to be a Denver Nugget for the years to come.