Kentucky combo guard Jamal Murray will be one of the most coveted players in the upcoming NBA Draft. We examine Murray’s game and how it projects at the NBA level.
2016 NBA Draft Prospect Evaluation:
Jamal Murray (19 years and 3 months old, Guard, Kentucky University via Ontario, Canada)
Video highlights (courtesy of RIC on YouTube):
Physical tools: 6’5”, 6’7” wingspan, 8’2” standing reach, 200 lbs, 39” max vertical.
Basically an undersized 2 or an above average PG.
Athletic ability: Murray can leap, which leads to some spectacular plays around the rim, but unfortunately, he isn’t quite quick enough to consistently beat his defenders there. His best spot is going to be on the perimeter, avoiding taking it into the teeth of the defense too much. On defense, his lack of lateral quickness is especially exploited.
Murray’s best situation is going to be as an off-ball player. He’s a willing passer, but it’s his catch and shoot game which is most valuable. That should lead to a spread floor for his teammates, but don’t expect Murray to be the one attacking the basket.
Murray only averaged a little over two assists per game in his year at Kentucky, but that doesn’t say as much about his passing ability as it does the role he was asked to fill on that team. He doesn’t seem to have superhuman court vision, but he’ll be fine. With that said, he’s still likely to be most effective playing off the ball.
Outside shooting ability:
In his lone NCAA season, Murray shot 40.2% from beyond the arc. His shot is pure, and his ability to square his shoulders in the air can almost be compared to Klay Thompson. The obvious game that stands out is when he went 8-10 from beyond the arc and scored 35 against Florida, but that game wasn’t an anomaly, rather just an example of what he can do on a good night.
He could easily follow in Devin Booker’s footsteps as the sharpshooter who makes the biggest splash from outside in his rookie year.
Ability to finish:
For all the things I’ve stated about his inability to consistently get by defenders, when Murray does get to the rim, he’s an above-average finisher. He has the hops to dunk balls other guards his size would have to lay-in, and when he does opt for a layup, he has excellent touch.
How he will score in the NBA:
Murray is one of the best jump shooters in this draft, and he may be the best at coming off screens. Last season he was lethal on shots off screens, shooting 42/75, 56%. There’s no one else who was remotely near that. While he won’t have quite as much space on those plays as he did in NCAA games, even with a significant step back from those numbers, he’ll be an above average NBA player in that category.
Defense: Defense is what keeps Murray from being a truly top-tier prospect. He’s not incompetent by any means, but he simply doesn’t have the size to hold down some of the bigger 2s in the league. As I noted in the athleticism section, he does have some bounce, but he won’t be quick enough to stick with the majority of quick point guards in the league. Too small for 2s and too slow for the point leads to a decently concerning defensive liability.
Basketball IQ and intangibles: He’s a competent defender mostly because of his ability to be aware of coming screens and the offense’s passing intentions. That’s an invaluable skill. He uses the same awareness on the offensive end as well. Time and time again he exploited switches or a unaware defender to get open for a clean look at the basket. Those are skills of his that should only continue to improve.
Projected draft position: While I believe Murray is the third best player in the draft, due to team needs, 5-6 seems most realistic.
Projected position in the NBA: Combo guard.
Comparable NBA player: Jamal Crawford