“Basketball is a simple game. Your goal is penetration.”
- Phil Jackson
MOCK DRAFT PICK No. 8
JAMAL MURRAY, FRESHMAN, KENTUCKY
POINT GUARD / SHOOTING GUARD
6’5” • 210 lbs.
Jamal Murray, a shooting guard from Kentucky, is one of the most explosive and exciting players in the draft this year. Of all of the players covered so far, he has one of the highest point averages per game. On the season, he’s averaging 20.0 points / 5.1 rebounds / 2.2 assists per game on .451 percent shooting with a PER of 22.5.
The strengths Murray possesses are obvious. He’s great coming off of screens and hitting spot-up jump shots, specifically from three-point range (.421 percent from behind the arc). He benefits majorly from having a PG like Tyler Ulis in the lineup, who can find him in transition and for open shots in the half-court. This aspect of his game is on display in his game against the Florida Gators earlier this season:
Murray can score.
He finishes well at the rim despite lacking elite explosive athleticism. It’s a buzz-phrase, “creative around the rim,” but it describes him well – he can’t rise up and dunk over people, but he has good post moves and uses up-and-unders and similar scoring techniques very effectively. This “creativity” can be seen in many of his baskets against Duke, which is notably impressive considering he was being guarded for much of the game by 6-9 SF Brandon Ingram, who you can read about here.
An underrated aspect of his game is his ability on the defensive boards. Averaging 5.1 rebounds per game, he has an above-average rebound percentage for a guard at 11.2%. This may be due to his height – he sometimes plays the one as a 6-5 guy – but you can still see him positioning himself well on defense and crashing to the basket when a missed shot occurs.
Red flags pop up with Jamal Murray when you consider how many NBA teams would like to use him: as a point guard. Murray, though he plays some at that position in college, is not a true point guard by any stretch of the imagination. Hi skill-set is that of a natural shooting guard, posting an assist percentage of 12.0% compared to his turnover percentage of 12.3%. Though his turnover percentage isn’t terrible considering his usage percentage at 27.2%, it’s less than ideal for a guy who some teams project to facilitate a pro offense. 2.2 assists per game are suspect, and definitely not eye-popping as a prospective primary ball-handler (at least not in a good way).
Also concerning is his lack of athleticism. Like I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have blazing speed, and is not quick off of cuts, which are traits that, to be a one guard in the NBA, you sort of need to have. Though he has performed well in transition in college, it’s not safe to assume that this will translate to the next level, particularly if teams want him leading the break.
Overall, Murray doesn’t have the highest upside, but I believe that he will not “bust.” While he doesn’t strike me as a future superstar, he does seem like a guy who will contribute immediately and be a key component on a very good team. As the leading scorer on the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball’s equivalent of the record label Young Money/Cash Money in the mid-2000s, people might expect more of him in the pros. But as Derek Fisher said of Kristaps, and as the Proph said of me, you don’t want to put a ceiling on a guy, because how is he supposed to break through?