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?

Adam Silver: I ‘strongly believe’ NBA will add in-season and play-in tournaments

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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CHICAGO – NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted to overhaul the schedule – including in-season and play-in tournaments – for the league’s 75th-anniversary season, 2021-22.

Instead, the Board of Governors vote planned for April was canceled.

Not because the ideas were unpopular, according to Silver. Because they were too popular.

“When we went to our teams, the Players Association and our media partners – probably the most important constituents in making changes,” Silver said, “the response we got was that, frankly, there was so much interest that they didn’t think it made sense to do it as a one-off.”

It’s easy to be skeptical of spin. But Silver is adamant.

“I strongly believe we will end up with some sort of in-season tournament and a play-in tournament,” Silver said.

The NBA will probably eventually have a play-in tournament. It makes a lot of sense, both competitively and financially. When those considerations align, things usually get done.

The league might even also add an in-season tournament. But it’s hard to find people actually enthusiastic about that idea.

Did Dwyane Wade violate judges’ agreement to keep dunk contest tied?

Dwyane Wade judging dunk contest
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CHICAGO – Dwyane Wade is a self-proclaimed Heat lifer.

Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. won the dunk contest with Wade as a judge.

You do the math.

On his final dunk, Jones got a 48. Then, Aaron Gordon dunked over terrified Tacko Fall… and got a 47.

The voting for Gordon’s last dunk:

  • Dwyane Wade: 9
  • Common: 10
  • Candace Parker: 10
  • Chadwick Bozeman: 9
  • Scottie Pippen: 9

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

With Common and Parker giving 10s and casting blame elsewhere, Wade, Bozeman and Pippen became suspects. The evidence points strongly at Wade.

Before the scores were even revealed a smiling Wade removed his earpiece, as if he knew the contest was finished. Notice how Common and Scottie Pippen both look at Wade after seeing the scores:

Wade danced around the controversy, never directly denying that he didn’t vote how he agreed he would:

Gordon’s final dunk was better than Jones’ final dunk. But Jones dunked better throughout the contest. Does that mean Gordon got robbed? At that point, yes. But Jones should have won the contest before then.

The bigger problem is judging dunks on a 6-10 scale. They should be judged relative to each other, and Jones’ were better.

Kobe Bryant’s legacy remembered, celebrated at All-Star weekend

Kobe Bryant jersey at All-Star Game
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CHICAGO — Kobe Bryant always seemed to be in top form when he stepped onto the court for the NBA All-Star Game. The league’s current best will try to match his effort when Team LeBron and Team Giannis meet on Sunday.

The All-Star festivities returned to Chicago for the first time since 1988 when Michael Jordan beat Dominique Wilkins in a slam dunk contest that remains the standard and scored 40 points to lead the East over the West.

But Bryant is casting a huge shadow over the events this weekend, just weeks after he and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed when their helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain near Los Angeles.

Commissioner Adam Silver announced Saturday night that the All-Star Game MVP award has been renamed in Bryant’s memory.

“We know that he’s watching over us,” the Lakers’ LeBron James said. “It’s our responsibility to just represent the purple and gold not only for him but for all the greats, everybody that’s ever come through the Lake Show. I really don’t want to sit up here and talk about it too much. It’s a very, very sensitive subject, but he’s with us every day.”

Bryant played on five NBA championship teams, won a league MVP award and two scoring titles in a career that spanned 20 seasons and has him poised to enter the Hall of Fame after he was announced Friday as one of eight finalists.

He was the youngest All-Star in league history, ranks second with 18 selections and took game MVP honors a record-tying four times, including on his home court in 2011 when he dazzled with 37 points and 14 rebounds. Bryant scored 20 or more seven times.

“The whole thing of paying respect to Kobe is awesome, so I think it’s going to be fun,” said Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, making his sixth straight All-Star appearance. “I’m hoping it’s really, really intense. Hopefully, we’ll give the fans one of the best All-Star Games ever.”

PAYING TRIBUTE

The support for Bryant and his daughter is uniform.

Team Giannis will wear No. 24 on its jerseys and Team LeBron No. 2 for Gianna, a promising player who wore that number.

All participants in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday and 3-point, slam dunk and skills competition on Saturday wore patches showing the numbers 24 and 2 and nine stars to commemorate the victims of the helicopter crash. The patches worn Sunday will only have the nine stars since players will be wearing the numbers 24 and 2.

“He was the Michael Jordan of our generation,” Antetokounmpo said. “He was one of those guys that gave back to the game so much, gave back to the players. A lot of people when they’re so great, they don’t do that. There was a quote that said that talent is worthless if you’re not willing to share it, right? And he was one of those guys that was sharing his talent with us. He’s going to be definitely missed.”

Anthony Davis, Patrick Beverley, more return to sweet home Chicago for All-Star Game

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CHICAGO — For Anthony Davis, it means a lot of things. Like snow.

“I don’t get to see the snow as much now. Me and my cousins would go outside and have snowball fights almost every day after school,” Davis said. “I kinda miss that.”

And deep-dish pizza.

“Giordano’s pizza is my go-to,” Davis said.

For Patrick Beverley, it means grit.

“My Chicago grit goes everywhere with me,” Beverley said. “It’s something, when I get on the court, I try to represent. That’s just a part of my game.”

For a handful of players — Davis, Beverley in the Skills Challenge, Miami’s Kendrick Nunn in Rising Stars, Detroit’s Derrick Rose (who had to pull out of the Skills Challenge due to injury) — the NBA All-Star weekend of events is a chance to come back home, to the city where they grew up and learned to play the game.

“Really excited to be back home, really excited to see my friends, the high schools I went to,” Beverley said. “I’m really excited to smell the Chicago air. I’m so happy to be back home right now…

“It’s an emotion I really can’t explain. It’s surreal to me, I find myself trying to pinch myself. I think the last All-Star Game (in Chicago) was 32 years ago, so I wasn’t even born yet. You know me, I represent Chicago, the grit of Chicago, I’m just fortunate to be able to represent the city the right way.”

“It’s good to be back home, spend time with my family, my friends…” Davis said. “Just trying to stay warm. But to get back here and play in front of the fans in the place I grew up, the place I had my first big-time game, the McDonalds game at UC (United Center). It’s been great to get back here and re-live some of the high school memories I had here in Chicago.”

Davis didn’t attend one of Chicago’s basketball powers. Kind of the opposite. He went to Perspectives Charter School — which didn’t even have a gym on campus at the time. They played at a church nearby. Davis entered school as a 6’2″ guard who was relatively unremarkable, but he grew 8 inches in 18 months, bringing those guard skills with him, and suddenly he was on the top of everyone’s recruiting lists.

Davis could have transferred to any of Chicago’s power schools, like Rose’s Simeon Career Academy, but he stayed at Perspectives.

“I was just being loyal, it was my junior year and I didn’t want to leave and have to sit out a year, so I kinda just stayed around and tried to stick it out,” Davis said. “My dad always gave me the saying ‘no matter where you are they’ll find you,’ and I kind of took that to heart and kept doing what I was doing, working hard, and eventually someone would come see me. Then Coach Cal [Kentucky’s John Calipari] came to one of my games and the rest is history.”

Chicago influenced all of their games.

For Beverley, he said it was another Chicago guy, Will Bynum, who served as a mentor. Plus, when Beverley was in elementary and heading into middle school, it was the Michael Jordan Bulls era.

“There were a lot of parades at that time, the city was on fire. Literally on fire,” Beverley said. “Seeing all that made you want to go out and play basketball. I guess that was every kid’s dream.”

When Davis was having his growth spurt and starting to emerge in high school, Derrick Rose was drafted and took over the NBA — right there in Chicago.

“Derrick Rose is still one of my favorite players to watch,” Davis said. “He was the guy every guy underneath him looked up to. The things he did for the city, and him getting drafted to the Bulls and that whole run, it was just inspiring for all of us.”

All-Star weekend is not a time Davis is going to get to chill on the couch with family and friends. The games, the charity events, the sponsor events — and not to mention a few parties — pull the players in the events a lot of directions.

“I haven’t been able to take it all in, I’ve been running around,” Davis said.

But they are still home. They get to smell the Chicago air, see some friends.

And maybe throw in a slice of pizza.