DEMPSEY: TO SHOOT OR NOT TO SHOOT? MURRAY NOT WORRIED ABOUT SHOTS
By Christopher Dempsey, Altitude Sports
In a starting lineup full of veteran scorers, it’s not easy for the youngest player to feel comfortable being continually aggressive and consistently looking for his shot. That is, unless, he’s not.
Jamal Murray is arguably the most interesting case study on the team. He was a scorer in college, a two-guard that could fill it up from anywhere on the court. When he arrived in Denver, though, the sharpshooter who averaged 20 points per game for Kentucky, one of the country’s premier college basketball programs, only had eyes for playing point guard.
And not necessarily a scoring point guard.
Murray is not just exhibiting restraint in being super selective with his shot-taking in the preseason and now the regular season. It is quickly becoming apparent that pouring in a ton of points is just something he did and still can do, but it is not hard-wired into his DNA. Doing whatever is asked of him, however, is woven in.
“I’m not going to force shots,” Murray said. “I’m not going to put one up just to put one up. I’m always going to try to get the best shot, whether it’s for me or whether it’s for Wilson (Chandler), or an open three, or look down low. I’m trying to get the best shot. I’m trying to win. I could have zero, zero, zero and five assists and I’ll be fine. I’m just trying to get the ‘W.’”
It’s a good place to be given the circumstances. Murray is in a starting lineup with four other players who have all averaged at least 14.9 points per game at some point in their careers. In other words, among Gary Harris, Chandler, Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap, not only are there prolific scorers, but proven high percentage shot makers. Murray has been tasked with figuring out where his shots are coming from among that quartet.
“I can score, and I want to look to score,” Murray said. “But if the scoreboard’s not looking right I can’t think I’ve got to put up another four shots just because I haven’t shot the ball. I’m always trying to work towards the best shot.”
Does he have an attempt number in mind that he wants to hit?
“No,” Murray said.
Has there been an adjustment to operating as the starting point guard?
“It’s not adjusting,” he said. “I’m a point guard.”
It’s as simple as this in Murray’s mind. He’s a point guard, not a shot hunter. And he’ll operate in that fashion. The threat of his ability to catch fire from the 3-point line helps the Nuggets keep the court spaced when he’s out there.
And yet, there is a good possibility the Nuggets are ultimately a better, and certainly more dangerous, team if Murray is scoring. Nuggets coach Michael Malone knows that. And yet he needs Murray to suppress the scoring just enough to allow the offense to run on schedule.
“He’s a shooting, scoring guard,” Malone said. “Right now, you can see he’s just so: ‘when do I go, when do I not go.’ It’s not like it’s a take this pill, it’s going to be okay. It’s him figuring it out. The more he plays, the more he’ll get that. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter