Prospect Profile: Jamal Murray

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

College Career
15-16 (FR): 36 G / 20.0 P / 45.4 FG / 113 3FGM / 40.8 3FG% / 5.2 R / 2.2 A / 2.3 TO

Need a scorer?  Need a scorer who can shoot?

Well then, Jamal Murray just might be your guy.

In his lone season at Kentucky, Murray was a force, turning in one of the most potent rookie showings in Kentucky, Southeastern Conference, and NCAA history. An All-American honoree and National Freshman of the Year candidate, the two-guard generated 20.0 points per game.  This average was second among NCAA first-year players only to Rice guard Marcus Evans’ 21.5 points per tilt.  Murray, however, topped all freshmen in total points, with 720. 

Jamal Murray Photo Gallery

To see where Murray did major damage, one need not look farther than the three-point arc.  He stroked 113 triples, the most ever for an SEC freshman, and the NCAA’s second-highest single-season rookie total of all-time.  The only first-year sharpshooter to drain more treys than Murray?  Steph Curry, who connected on 122 threes for Davidson in 2006-2007.  Murray produced a stellar percentage from beyond the border as well, converting 40.8 percent of his tries.  He was one of five freshman to shoot at least 40.0 percent from the perimeter. 

Murray proved efficient from the interior too, posting a 50.2 field goal percentage on two-point opportunities.  Thanks to his driving ability, he also steadily got to the foul line.  Murray’s 152 attempts ranked second on the Wildcats, as did his 78.3 free throw percentage. 

Originally born in Jamaica, Murray spent most of his life as a resident of Kitchener, Ontario.  As his high school career progressed, the now 6’4” tall, 207 pounder started to emerge as one of the next up-and-coming top-tier prospects from a budding Canadian hoops pipeline that, in recent years, has produced the likes of Tristan Thompson, Nik Stauskas, Trey Lyles, and 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins.  

Murray’s potential was pushed that much more to the forefront last year, when he participated in several reputable amateur showcases.  At the Nike Hoop Summit in April, Murray delivered what was arguably the exhibition’s most impressive offensive performance.  On a World Team roster that also featured LSU’s Ben Simmons, Kansas’ Cheick Diallo, and Murray’s eventual Kentucky teammate Skal Labissiere, Murray posted a game-high 30 points and five assists in his club’s 103-101 victory over the United States.  Days later, Murray racked up 29 points, 10 helpers, and eight rebounds in the annual BioSteel All-Canadian Game.

During the final week of May, several members of the Sixers organization, including co-managing owner Josh Harris, President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo, and head coach Brett Brown, attended a New York City-based workout at which Murray was a featured prospect. 

Skillset Snapshot
Half Court Offense
Murray was an elite scorer, especially when given the opportunity to operate in the half-court.  His 1.027 points per half-court possession placed him among the top 10 percent of all NCAA Division I players.  Specifically, Murray was an excellent spot-up shooter.  His 168 spot-up attempts accounted for nearly a third of his total shots taken last year; he hit on 43.5 percent of these shots.  In the clip below, Murray displays his spot-up prowess in clutch fashion, nailing an overtime go-ahead three at Texas A&M.  Note that Murray does not take a dribble here.  On the season, two-thirds of his spot-up attempts were made without dribbling. 



In addition to spot-up shooting, Murray was among the top catch-and-shoot performers in the country.  He went 89 for 193 on such attempts (46.1 fg%), generating 1.363 points per possession.  This next gif. comes from the second half of Kentucky’s eventual 74-62 loss at Vanderbilt.  In the right corner, Murray is matched up with another projected first-round pick, Wade Baldwin IV (#4).  Making the most of a Skal Labissiere pick (#1), Murray moves up towards the top of the arc, where he receives a pass from Tyler Ulis (#3).  The result?  Paydirt.



Further examining a theme from the previous clip, Murray did major damage off screens, sinking 56.0 percent of his shots in that fashion.  Specifically, the third-team All-American was virtually as effective going to his right as he was to his left.  Here, in the Wildcats’ 88-79 win at Florida on March 1st, Murray shows what he can do going to his left off of a screen.  Utilizing a Marcus Lee (#0) pick, Murray shakes free of Gators’ guard Chris Chiozza (#11), and then exhibits some nice touch by draining an elbow jumper over the long, outstretched arm of 6’11” big man John Egbunu (#15).

A final component of Murray’s half-court game worth looking at is his ability to manufacture his own offense as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.  He generated 0.855 points per possession in these scenarios, a rate that’s considered above average.  Revisiting Kentucky’s defeat at Vanderbilt, Murray again finds himself dealing with Wade Baldwin IV (#4).  Wildcats’ freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe (#13) moves across the free throw line, taking Jeff Roberson (#11) with him.  Murray is then given the chance to go one-on-one with Baldwin, and finds success via a quality duck-in move. 

Around the Rim
As much of a shooter as Murray is, he also has another strong dimension to his scoring game.  Whether in the half-court, or in transition, Murray demonstrated he can make positive things happen near the bucket.  He tallied 1.284 points per possession, and converted 59.5 percent of his shots around the basket.  While touch and finesse shine through Murray’s shooting, his rim-driving reflects athleticism and strength.  On February 13th, Kentucky was blowing out South Carolina, and Murray, who finished with 28 points, was having an enjoyable day.  In this sequence, watch Murray zoom to the tin with impressive force, and slam home an emphatic dunk.

Defense
Murray graded out as a decent defender this season.  Opponents shot 37.0 percent against him, and he created turnovers on nearly 11.0 percent of the possessions he defended.  Murray had his greatest defensive success in spot-up situations, but also held his own in isolation.  Below, in the early stages of Kentucky’s SEC Tournament pairing with Alabama, see Murray take on and deter hard-charging Crimson Tide senior guard Retin Obasohan (#32), who ended up as the fifth-leading scorer in the SEC.

Outside Observation
Sixers Vice President of Player Personnel Marc Eversley on impressions of Jamal Murray during June 2nd media availability: 
“We got a chance to see him workout a couple weeks ago.  He’s certainly going to be one of those kids who is going to be in contention for the number one pick.  We like him a lot.  He’s going to bring a lot to wherever he goes in the NBA. Certainly a talent.”

Mock Draft Projections (as of 6/3)
NBA.com: #7 (Nuggets)

DraftExpress.com: #8 (Kings)

NBADraft.net: #5 (Timberwolves)

ESPN.com: #5 (Timberwolves)


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