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X Factor: Jamal Murray

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This season, the Denver Nuggets did not have a player outside of Nikola Jokic make an All-Star game or an All-NBA team; despite this, they have been playing some of the best basketball in the NBA. Their unselfishness, team chemistry and ball movement on offense reminds me of the Tim Duncan era Spurs. Yet despite all the accolades that Jokic rightfully receives, the most important player for the Nuggets going into the Finals might be Jamal Murray.

Murray has always been an under the radar player. He is a dynamic scorer who can get to the basket and shoot the three well. He is also a good passer and a solid defender. He is the perfect complement to Nikola Jokic, and he gives the Nuggets a second scoring option that can take over games. This was seen in 2020 when Murray tortured the Los Angeles Clippers, helping the Nuggets to overcome a 3-1 series deficit. For that playoff run in 2020, Murray averaged 26.5 PPG/ 6.6 AST/ 50 % FG/ 45 3P%. Murray, it seemed, was on the verge of stardom, but injuries the following season and an ACL injury in the 2022 season, halted Murray from the breakout year he was expecting.

During that frustrating 2022 season, Murray feared he would be traded and viewed himself as damaged goods. Head coach Michael Malone assured him that he would not be traded “Hell no. You’re ours. We love you; we’re going to help you get back and you’re going to be a better player for it”. After almost 600 days away from the game, Jamal Murray returned and has played like one of the best players in the world. Throughout the playoffs this season, Murray has averaged 27.7 PPG/ 6.1 AST/ 1.7 STL/ 48 %FG/ 40 3P%. He is playing right now like one of the best players in the NBA and has seemed to regain his 2020 playoff form. In the conference finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers, Murray was historically good. He became the first player in history to average 30PTS/50%FG/40% 3P/90% FT. How important is Murray viewed by the Nuggets? Jokic called him the best player for the Nuggets since round one:

The Denver Nuggets will not change their style of play in the finals. They will continue to play unselfish team basketball. Yet to think that the Nuggets are a one man show, would be a mistake. Jamal Murray must be respected and accounted for at all times as if he was an All-NBA or All- Star player. Because despite the fact that he did not receive any of those awards this season, Murray’s playoff stretch has him playing as a top ten player in the world.

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