The commitment of Jamal Murray came as a welcome surprise last summer and the Candian-born player did not disappoint in his one season in Lexington.
He broke Brandon Knight's single-season freshman scoring record. He also broke Knight's record of most three-pointers made in a single season by a freshman. Murray also broke Tony Delk's record of 34 straight games with a made three-pointer. He made 113 three-pointers, one shy of Jodie Meeks' record and the most ever by a freshman in the SEC. It was also the second most in the history of the NCAA, nine shy of the record set by Stephen Curry. His accolades are too many to list here, so check them out over at UKathletics.com.
It was unfortunate that his season was ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a loss to the Indiana Hoosiers. Even though Murray was a sure-fire one-and-done, he took the loss as hard as anyone on the team. He cared about his time as a Kentucky Wildcat and he had a special relationship with John Calipari.
Murray's stats at Kentucky were eye-popping:
Field goal percentage- 45.4%
Murray's draft stock is the best among Kentucky NBA-bound players and it looks as if he will be taken in the top eight. Here are the draft projections for Murray:
NBADraft.net- #5 Overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves
Strengths: A very polished and clutch performer for his age ... Murray is a combo guard, but in a good way, at 6'4" and 207 lbs he possess the size to play both guard positions ... Has shown the ability to play off the ball as a freshmen at Kentucky ... Has three point range that must be respected by his defender ... Takes open driving lanes when he sees them ... Can really attack defenses when going downhill ... Comfortable finishing in the lane and has a variety of shots to finish in the paint ... Uses his athleticism to be a creative finisher around the rim ... Thrives in the clutch. Not afraid of the big moments or the big stage ... Plays with a calming presence at all times ... Never seems rattled or off his game ... NBA-level athlete that will pose a problem for opposing point guards in the league ... A natural scorer (currently averaging better than 18 PPG) ... Makes putting the ball in the basket look effortless ... Moves well without the ball ... Very good in catch and shoot situations ... Possesses the ability to get hot from deep (shot 8/10 from three against Florida and 7/9 from three against Ohio State) ... Shoots a lot, but has a true shooting percentage of 55.2% ... Above average rebounder on the defensive glass for a combo guard (almost 6 RPG per 40 minutes)
Weaknesses: Hasn't played with the ball as much as anticipated, and not playing much PG in college games isn't developing his skill at the position ... The doubts about his ability to play full time PG could cosh him a few draft positions ... In limited situations looks timid with the ball when not attempting to score ... The tools and effort are there for Murray to be an above average defender, but will often lose focus off the ball ... Will gamble for steals and hurt the team defensively ... Might be the role Calipari is asking him to play, but looks like he would be a score first point guard at this stage of his development ... Not much of a playmaker for others (averaging only 2.3 assists per game) ... Can become too dependent on his outside shot in games (3/12 against Tennessee, 1/10 against NJIT, 2/9 against Eastern Kentucky) ... High volume shooter (averages 15 shots a game) ... Too turnover prone, especially for an off guard, with 2.6 turnovers per game and a turnover rate of 13.6% ... Doesn't have outstanding length with only a 6'6.5" wingspan ... Can he blow by NBA level athletes consistently and keep defenders from crowding him ...
Draftexpress.com- #8 to the Sacramento Kings
Murray's skill-level and aggressiveness is what separates him from your average guard (particularly for a teenager), and that starts with his capacity as one of the most prolific shooter/scorers in the college ranks. His jumper is a finely tuned weapon that has been honed through thousands of hours of repetition in the gym, and he hit 41% of his 3-pointers on a huge volume of attempts (nearly eight per game). His stroke is compact and repeatable, getting good elevation to create separation from the defense, to go along with an unlimited confidence in his ability to make shots from anywhere on the floor.
Murray was magnificent as a spot-up shooter for Kentucky, but was particularly impressive coming off screens, as no player in college basketball even came close to delivering the accuracy he did (42/75, 56%) running off picks this season. He does an incredible job of moving off the ball with exquisite timing, and then catching, setting his feet and getting his shot off in one quick and smooth motion, with tremendous balance and body control. He is capable of contorting his body and throwing the ball in the basket from the most awkward of angles, with phenomenal touch and feel.
A major question NBA teams will have is whether Murray can develop into a combo, or even a point guard as time moves on. He averaged more turnovers than assists this season, and the track record of players who did so in college is decidedly mixed in terms of making that transition, with Gilbert Arenas, Eric Bledsoe and possibly Isaiah Canaan the only ones we can find with a similar or worse ratio in college that found success.
NBA.Com- #7 to the Denver Nuggets
The latest installment of the recent Canadian influx into the NBA is the 2016 version of D'Angelo Russell, lacking great athleticism while projecting as a versatile guard with good size and natural instincts as a passer but also the scoring ability to play off the ball. Murray is more shooting guard than point guard. He shot 40.8 behind the arc as part of a big second half that included 11 consecutive games with at least 20 points. His work as a ball handler needs to get much better, though -- Murray had more turnovers (84) than assists (79).
Wrapping it Up:
It is obvious that teams are most enamored with Murray's shooting and his scoring ability. This type of player is en vogue in the NBA right now thanks to the success of the Golden State Warrior. But honestly, shouldn't this be the type of player all NBA teams want? Making baskets is the name of the game after all.
Murray's athleticism is being questioned, which is unfair. There were multiple times last season that Murray showed his ability to drive into the paint and create his own shot or dunk over another player.
I mean, that should put the athleticism questions to rest. Right?
NBA teams are going to have to decide if Murray is going to play the point or shooting guard. His decision making is being questioned and I think that is fair. He didn't run the point much at Kentucky, those duties were primarily taken care of by Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe once in a while.
I'm fairly certain Murray will be a shooting guard on the next level and will make an NBA team extremely happy with his work ethic, professionalism, and basketball scoring ability.