Can Jamal Murray’s historical play in the bubble be sustained next season and beyond? Will he become an All-Star?
HoopsHype posed those questions to two general managers, one executive and three scouts to get the answers.
“I think All-Star is likely, but I would argue he’s been playing at All-NBA borderline superstar level in the bubble,” one Eastern Conference general manager told HoopsHype. “That level I’m not sure about.”
Murray shot 50.5 percent from the field, 45.3 percent from three-point range and 89.7 percent from the foul line this postseason. How good are those numbers? Since the NBA added three-pointers in the 1979-80 season, only Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Malcolm Brogdon have shot 50-40-90 over a full season.
“I don’t know if he can shoot this consistently over time, but he’s still a very good player,” one Western Conference scout told HoopsHype. “He’s probably a guy who can be an All-Star, but not a game-changer like this like a superstar level. I’m not sure he can do that consistently. Maybe he can, he’s still young, but I’d bet a little lower than what he’s doing right now.”
In Game 4, Murray displayed a new bag of tricks in his scoring repertoire with an off-balance left-handed floater, a high-arching one-handed fall away shot over Anthony Davis, and an up-and-under layup that drew comparisons to Michael Jordan.
After leading the league in playoff minutes, and battling through a right knee contusion in Game 5, another Eastern Conference general manager believes Murray’s bubble play is sustainable and could be a preview of him scratching the surface of his potential.
“I expect him to continue to get better,” the general manager told HoopsHype. “His confidence should be through the roof going into next season. He can score so many ways. He doesn’t have the pressure to create for others since they play through (Nikola) Jokic.”
Murray proved to be a willing passer averaging 6.6 assists in the playoffs, but his mentality has always been scorer-first. Murray dropped 20 or more points in seven straight playoff games. The last Nugget to do this in a single postseason was Carmelo Anthony in 2009.
“He’s an All-Star for years to come in my book,” one Eastern Conference scout told HoopsHype. “I forget which game it was, but in last year’s playoffs, he scored like 21 straight points to beat the Spurs in a game. He has a high-level skill and confidence with a green light.”
“It’s been pretty impressive,” another Western Conference scout told HoopsHype. “I feel it will springboard him into the All-Star conversation each year. He’ll make it, maybe just not every year.”
Next season, Murray begins his five-year, $170 million maximum-salary contract extension, so All-Star expectations are certainly warranted given his play in the bubble and upcoming paycheck.
While Murray is now on the verge of realizing his potential, the groundwork was laid several years ago while he was in high school. According to one Eastern Conference executive, Murray’s All-Star foundation was built while learning from a Canadian legend and playing against older competition.
“I don’t think it’s a fluke at all,” the executive told HoopsHype. “I saw him work out with Nash the year before he went to Kentucky and saw the talent then. It’s just a matter of time for him, not if, in my opinion. I’m happy that it’s coming together for him. During that time, he was a high school graduate going at Cory Joseph and CJ McCollum after Canadian National team practices.”
Those workouts with Nash, Joseph and McCollum raised Murray’s game rapidly. The former Kentucky Wildcat became the second Canadian to win MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic International Game in 2013. Two years later, Murray scored a game-high 30 points and was named MVP of the Nike Hoop Summit.
Soon, the Canadian guard could add some hardware for his country in the Olympics as well.
“He’s really becoming a superstar in the league,” Toronto Raptors and Canadian National team coach Nick Nurse said. The coach added all signs point to Murray playing for Canada.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto