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Can Jamal Murray help Denver push for a championship later this season?

Evaluating star point guard Jamal Murray and his path to hopefully contributing for the Denver Nuggets later this season.

Jamal Murray 2020-21 Stats

Murray was putting together a career year through 48 games before he suffered a devastating ACL injury during a game against the Golden State Warriors. In 48 games before he missed the remainder of the season due to injury, Murray was averaging a career-high 21.2 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting from the field, 40.8 percent from three.

It was not just scoring where Murray made an impact as he averaged 4.8 assists and four rebounds per game. Murray was also averaging a career-high 1.3 steals per game as he truly was having a positive impact on both ends of the floor before he suffered his injury.

Overview

It felt like if Murray was able to stay healthy last season that Denver would’ve had a shot to reach their first NBA Finals in franchise history. The Nuggets ran into a buzzsaw in the Phoenix Suns, but with the help of Murray they definitely could’ve made that more of a series than they did. Luckily for the Nuggets they should hopefully get Murray back late in the season if everything goes according to plan with his rehab.

Murray suffered his ACL injury on April 12th, so if he returns towards the end of the season in say March that would be almost a year removed from the injury. There is no telling what Murray will look like if he is able to return this season, but if he’s anything like the player he was before the injury he should provide the Nuggets a massive boost come playoff time.

Best Case

Let’s say that everything is ahead of schedule and that Murray is able to return to play at the beginning of January. That would be nine months removed from his injury, which is rushing it for some athletes, while others have been able to accomplish that feat. For example, Adrian Peterson has one of the most famous ACL recovery stories as he returned to the field eight months after suffering the injury and looked better than ever.

If we know anything about Murray it’s that he’s a fighter and always seems to defy the odds. All the reports and videos surrounding Murray’s rehab have been positive, so hopefully Murray is able to return to the court sooner rather than later and let’s hope he continues to play like the dominant athlete who was taking the league by storm before he went down.

Worst Case

A setback in Murray’s rehab that would force him to miss the entire 2021-22 season is definitely the worst case scenario. Now, say the Nuggets aren’t where they need to be in the standings to make a run once March rolls around then I would say it’s smart to rest and save Murray for next year. I don’t see that being the case though as I firmly believe this roster — led by the MVP, Nikola Jokic — will be able to keep this team afloat until Murray returns.

If the Nuggets want to make a run, they are going to need Murray to do so. Regardless of what happens in the regular season, Murray makes a massive difference to the Nuggets success in the postseason. Just look at the Jazz series from a season ago, the Nuggets don’t come anywhere close to advancing if they don’t have #27 leading the charge. Murray has the ability to change the course of a game in a flash, so hopefully he’s able to return towards the end of the year and help the Nuggets push for a championship.

Bold Prediction

I’m not afraid to say it: I think Murray returns at the beginning of March, starts to find his stride toward the end of the season, and helps lead the Nuggets to the NBA Finals. Are they going to win the finals once they get there? I’m never going to doubt a core four of Jokic, Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Aaron Gordon.

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