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Film Friday: What’s up with Jamal Murray

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.

Last season, when the NBA playoffs finally kicked off after being delayed for several months due to Covid-19, there were a few players that took their game to another level. Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns and T.J. Warren of the Indiana Pacers were two of the top names from the eight play-in games. In the actual playoffs, Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets was the bright budding superstar in the making.

Now, after about two months of play, it’s a legitimate question whether that sustained superior level of play is actually within Murray’s abilities. In the playoffs, Murray was averaging 26.5 points, 6.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds with a slash line of .505/.453/.897. Those shooting numbers were going to come down, but 21.0 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds on .474/.387/.822 is a pretty steep fall off.

As the second-highest-paid player on the roster and the eighth-highest paid player at his position, the hope was that he would be able to sustain some of that performance into this season. There have been flashes of it, such as the fourth quarter that he put up against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday when he scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting including 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 on free throws. Murray has to be the second star for this team, but his consistency so far this year makes it reasonable to question if he can be that player.

*All stats, film and analysis were done prior to the team’s 2/25/2021 game against the Washington Wizards.*

Shot Taker & Shot Maker

When Jamal is feeling it, these are shots that he takes and makes with a good amount of confidence. There are a lot of guards in this league, such as De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings, that win with speed. Murray is not one of them. He uses his movement and ability to shoot off-balance to get shots up. He has an advantage on Carmelo Anthony that a guard like Fox would drive past him. Murray doesn’t quite have that burst, so he dribbles Anthony into a quick lull and steps back to drain the shot. In a tie game that’s been back and forth all game, Murray’s ability to be a shotmaker is huge for the team.

Nikola Jokic can get you a bucket when he feels like it. It doesn’t matter who you’re guarding him with because he’s going to find a way to score, but it helps a lot to have another guy that can do that. At times, Murray is that second scorer for Denver. On this one, he’s matched up a center. Again, that’s a great matchup for him to drive and score. Instead, he sees Anthony waiting on the block, so he uses his stepback to generate space and knock down the shot to break the tie again. With other shot-makers like Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton struggling so far this season,

Stop Doing Too Much

There are times when Murray should be allowed to take over. In the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s game, that was one of those times. However, too often, he’ll get into a rut that he tries to shoot out of. He’s been dealing with a shoulder injury for a few weeks now, and he’s been unable to rest with the injuries to the rest of the rotation. This isn’t a good shot that he takes on this play. He’s moving at an angle with a defender in close position to contest, and it’s early in the shot clock. There’s no reason for him to force this shot up. Murray’s not the only player that makes this mistake, but he has to be better as one of the leaders of this team.

What’s the plan here? You’re down by 10 on the road, and you just got an offensive rebound to get a chance at a better shot to cut into the lead. Instead, Murray takes the ball and dribbles into four Atlanta Hawks’ defenders including both of the team’s bigs. Before Murray goes up into the air, there is a second he could get the ball out to one of Nikola Jokic, Barton or Porter who would all have near-open looks at the basket. Even if they miss, it’s a better shot than the one Murray attempts. Sometimes, helping your team means doing less instead of doing more.

Get Engaged On Defense

Murray is not a lockdown defender by any stretch of the imagination, and there are moments, even within the same game where he locks in and looks like an asset on that end. Unfortunately, he has a lot more moments like this where he just looks like a guy that’s taking up space. Murray’s the first defender back, and all five Nuggets’ defenders are back. While the other four are looking for someone to guard, Murray is just standing. Even when he guards Robert Williams, he’s just standing near him more than he’s working to deny the ball or actively defend him. The game is played on both ends of the floor, and Murray needs to be a leader and show he knows that.

I get it. You’re up by seven with less than 20 seconds left on the clock. There is no way they’re going to come back, so you can take a possession off right? Wrong! Damian Lillard remains one of the best players in the NBA, and Murray tuning out on this play results in Lillard getting the 3-point shot off to cut the lead to four. When the shot goes up from Robert Covington, Murray is just watching and assuming if a miss happens his team will get the rebound, so he doesn’t box out Lillard. Lillard walks in for the easy offensive board, and he’s able to retreat for the 3-pointer before the rest of the defense can get there. Games are 48 minutes long, and that’s not changing.

For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.