PBT’s 2016 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Jamal Murray

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Jamal Murray’s ascension from Class of 2016 prospect to potential top five pick was impressive to watch.

After announcing that he would enroll in college a year early and, in something of an upset, picking Kentucky over Oregon for his one season of college ball, Murray went on to dominate the Pan-American Games for Team Canada, ensuring that he would enter the college season with an untold amount of hype in the Bluegrass State.

And after sputtering through the first few weeks of the season, Murray turned in a year that was impressive enough to get him mentioned as a second or third-team all-american by just about every outlet that puts those teams together. There was one stretch, starting in early February, where Murray scored at least 20 points in 12 consecutive games.

He finished the season having averaged 20.0 points while shooting 40.8 percent from beyond the arc, and when you do that for Kentucky under John Calipari, you become a high draft pick.

But Murray is also one of the more controversial prospects in this draft. Is he being overrated?

Height: 6′ 4.25″
Weight: 207
Wingspan: 6′ 6.5″
2015-16 Stats: 20.0 points,, 2.2 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 40.8% 3PT

STRENGTHS: That jumper, man.

It’s something else.

When he gets in a rhythm, it’s over. He can make five or six threes in a row. He made at least four threes in 13 games this season — including four games where he made at least six threes — and he became just the second freshman in college basketball history to make 113 threes in a season. The other guy to do that? Curry, Stephen.

Murray is perhaps the most versatile shooter in the draft, meaning that he can hit just about any three in the game. He was the most efficient shooter in the country coming off of screens that didn’t play for Pacific, where he scored 1.506 PPP. Murray can curl to his right or his left as well as fade the screen if his defender tries to jump the passing lane. He’s got a feel for how to move without the ball and spot up. He’s lethal stepping into a three in transition. He’s got range well beyond the NBA three-point line. He’s a capable shooter off of a hang-dribble or a step-back, and he can use his handle to create space. He’s everything you want out of a jump-shooter.

But he’s not just a shooter, either.

Murray can handle the ball. He’s capable of attacking close outs, he can operate in the pick-and-roll, he can lead the break and he’s a willing and capable passer. There’s a difference between being a score-first player and a selfish player, and Murray is most definitely the former. That said, there’s no doubt he’s looking to score-first, but that’s not a bad thing. He has really good instincts and feel in the lane, and he understands how to use hesitations and change-of-speed to offset what he lacks in initial burst. He’s not a great mid-range shooter and somewhat inconsistent with his floater, he showed off some crafty finishes in the paint with both his right and left hand.

Overall, Murray has pretty impressive basketball IQ.

Defensively, he has some physical limitations, but he plays hard on that end of the floor. He doesn’t quit on plays when he gets beat and he has pretty good anticipation in passing lanes. He’ll go to the offensive glass as well.

Jamal Murray NBA Draft Scouting Report

Put together a video scouting report of Kentucky Wildcats guard Jamal Murray. With the 2016 NBA Draft right around the corner, what kind of prospect is Murray?

Posted by Rob Dauster on Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WEAKNESSES: The biggest concern with Murray is that his physical tools leave something to be desired. At just over 6-foot-4, he doesn’t have the ideal size for a shooting guard or the wingspan to make up for it, but he doesn’t have the quicks or the explosiveness to be a point guard. He struggled at times to turn the corner and get all the way rim when he put the ball on the floor, and that’s partially evident in the fact that he only shot 50 percent from two-point range. The reason he has to be crafty in the paint is because he has to rely on using footwork and his body to create space to get a shot off.

This is part of the reason that some scouts are concerned about his desire to play on the ball. He was more or less a point guard for his entire high school career, and even early on in the season with Kentucky, Coach Cal used him in a role that put him in the role of being a decision maker. That’s part of the reason that he struggled with consistency early in the season; being able to make plays off the dribble and function in ball-screens does not mean that he’s Russell Westbrook the same way that being able to make a three does not mean Westbrook is a good shooter.

The other issue with Murray’s desire to be a point guard is that he’s turnover prone. He finished his freshman season with more turnovers than assists, and to be fair, some of that was the fact that he was asked to shoot far more than he was asked to pass. But even before Cal made the change to play him almost entirely off the ball, Murray wasn’t exactly putting up Rondo-ian assist numbers.

Like we mentioned earlier, Murray doesn’t project to be much of a defender at the next level. He’s not all that quick laterally, he gets hung up on screens and he’ll bite on fakes. He low steal numbers are a red flag as well. He’s not a guy that can guard multiple positions, and he likely will never be a 3-and-D player in the NBA.

NBA COMPARISON: This is tough because I think so much of it depends on who Murray decides he wants to be at the next level. If he accepts his role as a shooter and embraces the idea that he can potentially be one of the best shooters in the NBA down the road, I think the obvious comparison is J.J. Redick, although I think it’s fair to mention him in the same breath as Richard Hamilton, although Rip was never really the kind of three-point threat that Murray is. Like Redick and Hamilton, Murray is already excellent operating off of screens, and may actually be a better playmaker when it comes to attacking closeouts.

I’ve seen Murray get compared to Klay Thompson and Kevin Martin as well, but the issue there is that Thompson and Martin are both 6-foot-7. Murray is just over 6-foot-4 in shoes with a relatively short wingspan. Ben Gordon is another name that pops up in conversation about Murray, although Gordon was a bit more explosive and not quite as dangerous moving without the ball.

OUTLOOK: Murray is probably going to end up falling somewhere in the No. 3-No. 8 range of the draft, regardless of how hard his former head coach pushes for him to get picked No. 1.

For me, Murray’s future depends on whether or not he can accept what his role will be at the next level. Murray wants to play on the ball. Point guard, lead guard, combo guard — however you want to phrase it, that’s what he wants to be. That’s fine, but with his physical limitations, the idea of Murray actually succeeding in that role is a bit of a question mark.

On the other hand, Murray is one of the three-best shooters in this draft, and he may actually be the most dangerous at running off screens off the ball. Anyone that has watched J.J. Redick and the Clippers play this season understands the value that an elite shooter has when he can run off of screens; they have ‘gravity’, in the sense that they pull multiple defenders out of position, and Murray, more than anyone in this draft (including Buddy Hield), has the ability to thrive in that role.

But will he be willing to accept a future where he’s Redick instead of Chris Paul, the Klay Thompson to his team’s Steph Curry?

Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu not expected to be back for Magic when games restart

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Jonathan Isaac was having a breakout season for Orlando. He had become a go-to defensive stopper for the Magic, a long, athletic, switchable defender averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals a game. He was going to get All-Defensive team votes this season and looked like a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate. (On offense he’s averaged 12 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, both career bests, but he is still a project.)

He hyperextended his knee and suffered a bone bruise in January, but it looks like neither he nor veteran Al-Farouq Aminu (torn meniscus) will be on the court for the Magic when games restart in July, reports Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

Injured forwards Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) most likely will not be healthy enough to return…

“Not a whole lot of news there,” [Magic president of basketball operations Jeff] Weltman said when asked about the possibility of Isaac or Aminu returning. “As always, we’re going to wait and see how they respond to rehab. They’re both working very hard.

“There’s a difference of being healthy and then being safely healthy. It will have been a long, long time since those guys played and you know organizationally that we’re never going to put our guys in a position where they’re exposed to any sort of risk of injury. So that being said, we’ll just continue to see how they progress.”

Put plainly, the risk is not worth the reward. Isaac is a key part of what the Magic want to build in the future and they do not want to push him too hard to return for this handful of games.

Come July, the Magic will head down the street to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando as the eighth seed in the East with a 5.5 game lead over the ninth-seeded Wizards (who will not have John Wall back). If Washington can close that gap to four games or fewer during the eight “seeding games,” then there will be a two-game play-in series between the teams, with the Magic just needing to win one of the two to advance (assuming they are still the eight seed).

After that, it’s on to the first round of the playoffs and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Isaac’s defense would be helpful against Bradley Beal and/or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Magic are thinking bigger picture.

Winning percentage will determine final seedings in NBA restart; regular tiebreakers used

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Heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando, the Trail Blazers are the nine seed in the West, followed by the Pelicans and Kings. All three of those teams are 3.5 games back of Memphis for the eighth seed, however, Portland gets the nine seed because it played two more games than either New Orleans and Sacramento, went 1-1 in those two games, and that gives Portland a slightly better winning percentage (.439 to .438).

That winning percentage matters because it’s how the league will determine seeding in a situation where teams have played a different number of games, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

In practical terms, this may not matter much.

In the West, if Portland and New Orleans both went 8-0 in the seeding games then winning percentage would play a role with the Blazers getting the higher seed. However, that scenario is highly unlikely. More likely is wins and losses in Orlando will decide this and other tiebreakers (New Orleans beat Sacramento in their one head-to-head meeting, but our projected schedule for those teams has them playing twice, so the head-to-head tiebreaker is still up in the air). Because of how the records shake out, tiebreakers are irrelevant to Portland — it will not tie any teams, winning percentage will decide their seed.

In the East, winning percentage is irrelevant for the playoff chase — either Washington gets within four games of Orlando hand forces play-in games for the final playoff spot, or it doesn’t and Orlando is in.

Eight teams not headed to Orlando considering mini-camps, summer games to help players

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Nine months is a long time to go without playing a basketball game.

That’s what the eight teams not going to the NBA season restart in Orlando — Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Minnesota, and New York — face. And for all of those teams except the Warriors, developing young players to be the future core of the franchise is their goal, and no games from March to December will set that effort back.

Which is why the teams are talking about “mini-camps” — think college spring football — with two teams at least playing each other during those camps, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Among the front-office ideas presented to the NBA, sources said:

• A combination of voluntary and mandatory workouts for two weeks in July.
• Regional minicamps in August that include joint practices for a period of days and approximately three televised games.

Those teams also want other “voluntary” team workouts and to start their training camps for next season earlier than the teams headed to Orlando.

The NBA isn’t going to grant teams everything on their wish list, but there should be some allowance for organized mini-camps and scrimmages/exhibitions. This would be particularly important to New York (and maybe Chicago), where a new coach will be installing a new system and trying to start a new culture.

Those eight teams missed out on 17 or so “meaningless” games with their season put on hold, games that would have meant something in terms of developing young players and giving guys key minutes. The league should — and almost certainly will — take steps to allow those off-season camps and scrimmages, helping teams get their player development programs back on track.

Gregg Popovich’s powerful statement: ‘Our country is in trouble and the basic reason is race’

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As protests continue across the nation — sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, but really the culmination of decades of systemic and, sometimes, overt racism across the United States — NBA voices have spoken up. Players, coaches, and staff have done more than take to social media, they have participated in and led marches across the nation, and put their money where their mouth is.

One of those voices is Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

He had spoken to Dave Zirin at The Nation, and on Saturday he released a powerful video statement through the Spurs.

Popovich has been at the forefront of NBA voices willing to speak out on social issues and criticize President Donald Trump. Popovich’s voice carries a lot of weight, both as a leader of men, and as a former Air Force officer who underwent intelligence training and specialized in Soviet studies.

In addition to coaching the San Antonio Spurs, Popovich will coach the USA Basketball team in the Tokyo Olympics, now set for July of 2021.