We’ve brought back the Role Player of the Week Award for a second season! Since stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry get most of the highlights, this weekly article will highlight more under-the-radar players who excelled in their roles for a given week. It could be a young player coming into his own, or a veteran succeeding in a smaller role. Our winner for this week is Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.
It was a rough start to the year for Murray, as he went 0-16 from the field in his first four games. He looked a little overwhelmed by the speed of the NBA game on both sides of the ball, as rookies often do.
But Murray got acclimated much more quickly than anyone could have anticipated, and is already looking like a crucial part of the Nuggets present and future. There are a lot of moving parts on the Nuggets roster, but Murray is looking like one of the players that Denver will include in its core.
It’s often hard to judge players at Kentucky due to the immense talent limiting what each player is asked to do. But his shooting always looked like it would play in the NBA. He doesn’t just make shots; he has a very quick release and is able to square up on almost any catch.
Several shooters have to dramatically quicken their shots coming into the NBA because there is less time and space to get off shots. Murray didn’t have that problem. Look at how quickly he gets his shoulders squared and releases this jumper. He’s incredibly difficult to guard coming off screens for this reason.
Murray definitely seems like the type of player who will have short spurts throughout the season where he hits an absurd percentage on his threes, and he shot 11 of 16 in a three-game stretch from November 20th to November 23rd. He’s struggled his last two games, but the shooting will continue to be there.
The more surprising part of Murray’s game so far is his playmaking ability. The Nuggets have been running a lot of offense through him, and he’s shown vision and craftiness.
Everything about this play should excite Nuggets fans. The fact that Murray is comfortable enough to run it regularly already is a win itself. But factor in the hesitation and the wraparound pass, and this is an advanced play for a 19-year-old.
Murray wasn’t asked to make plays for others in college. He averaged 2.2 assists in 35 minutes per game in college and is averaging 2.1 assists per game in 22 minutes so far in his rookie season, per Basketball-Reference.
Denver will continue to give Murray opportunities to run the offense, and the early returns are good. If he can continue to make good decisions, he’ll be a nightmare to guard, as defenders have to play him close due to his shooting ability. His quick first step gives him a leg up heading into the lane, and, more often than not, he’s leveraged that into a good possession for his team.
The Nuggets are still trying to find an identity, but it’s clear that Murray is a part of that. And considering the enormous potential he’s already exhibiting; Murray may not qualify as a role player for much longer.