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?

Paul George: “I feel great again,” says Clippers finally fully healthy

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Paul George symbolized the Clippers’ health all season long. George missed the first 11 games of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, then all season long it was still a lingering issue — until the suspension of play gave him time to heal.

“The whole season, all the way up until maybe a month or two ago, I had to always do shoulder rehab stuff, warming the shoulder up,” George said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “Just so much went into stuff I had to do before I actually took a foot on the floor. Now I feel great again.”

It wasn’t just Paul George, the Clippers had Kawhi Leonard managing his knee/thigh issue and an assortment of other injuries that didn’t give Doc Rivers the full arsenal at his disposal. That was until around the All-Star break — after that break Los Angeles went 7-2 with a +11.5 net rating that was best in the league by far.

The season being shut down may have halted that momentum, but it also gave a banged-up Los Angeles roster a chance to get healthy.

“For this team, man, I think our aspirations, again, this time off has given us what we needed,” George said. “We had some guys that was banged up, nagging injuries. The more time gave us more time for us to aid those injuries and to get back to 100.”

Health matters — which is why Montrez Harrell brought his own personal, portable sauna, a secret Reggie Jackson let out of the bag.

Health matters to Rivers, too, but what he wants more is that team chemistry back — and the Clippers have a long way to go on that end in Rivers’ eyes.

“This is not a normal way of starting back,” Rivers said of the mini-training camp all 22 teams at the NBA restart will get in Orlando. “Usually going into training camp, guys have been scrimmaging for three and four weeks, they’ve been playing, shooting on hoops. That’s not happening. This is a group, some of the guys have not touched a basketball or seen a gym until two weeks ago. We got a lot of work to do on both ends.”

The Clippers are not alone, every team is going to take time to find its rhythm again. Pick-and-roll combos need to get used to reading each other (and the defense) again at full speed, defensive rotations will be a step slow, and a few passes are going to head into the bench rather than the player in the corner.

When the Clippers get that rhythm back, with a healthy roster — finally — they again become a legitimate threat to win it all.

First, they just need to navigate the bubble. And maybe borrow Harrell’s sauna.

Atlanta G League affiliate promotes Tori Miller, first female GM in league

Tori Miller
Photo courtesy College Park Skyhawks
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The Atlanta Hawks aren’t just talking about progress and giving Black women a chance. They are acting.

The College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, has promoted Tori Miller to general manager. She is the first female GM in the G-League.

Miller, who grew up in Decatur (a city next to Atlanta), had worked for the team in Erie (when they were the Bayhawks) and followed the team with its move closer to its parent franchise. Miller served as an assistant GM last season before being promoted.

G League front office positions can be a stepping stone into an NBA front office.

The Hawks progressive move comes just as the team’s WNBA franchise, the Dream, has players trying to oust co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican Georgia U.S. Senator, because she advocated against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler has said she will not sell. It’s a problem not going away anytime soon.

Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley calls for NBA to put more politics into sports

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley
IM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Americans are increasingly inviting progressive politics into sports. Football players kneeling the national anthem are no longer an easy target. Even President Donald Trump has softened his tone on Colin Kaepernick.

So, some Republicans are pushing for MORE politics – their politics – in sports (sometimes under the guise of less politics in sports).

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, like Tennessee U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, has criticized the NBA for its relationship with China. It’s grandstanding while the United States itself has a trade deal with China.

Now, Hawley is objecting to the NBA’s pre-approved list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys.

Hawley press release:

Today Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is sending a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blasting the league’s apparent decision to strictly limit messages players can wear on their jerseys to a few pre-approved, social justice slogans while censoring support for law enforcement officers or the military and any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Senator Hawley writes that, as the NBA is now sanctioning political messages, they must stand up for American values and make clear where they stand on China’s human rights abuses.

Senator Hawley writes, “The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor – much like the censorship decisions of the CCP – are themselves statements about your association’s values. If I am right – if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation – your fans deserve to know that is your view. If not, prove me wrong. Let your players stand up for the Uighurs and the people of Hong Kong. Let them stand up for American law enforcement if they so choose. Give them the choice to write ‘Back the Blue’ on their jerseys. Or ‘Support our Troops.’ Maybe ‘God Bless America.’ What could be more American than that?”

OF COURSE the NBA was going to limit jersey messages to a pre-approved list. The league doesn’t want the pressure of censoring players’ individual choices. Nor does the league want to condone messages that would offend offend customers and jeopardize revenue. Support for Hong Kong protesters would definitely qualify as financially perilous.

The NBA – a business trying to make money – wants to support its employees and appeal to its audience. These relatively benign phrases accomplish those goals.

That doesn’t prevent NBA players from criticizing China. I take NBA commissioner Adam Silver at his word (especially after the Daryl Morey controversy) that the NBA endorses its employees right to speak out.

The NBA just isn’t going to allow players to give just any message through their jerseys.

Some players are understandably bothered by that limitation. But the biggest pushes for change aren’t going to come through multi-billion-dollar corporations. That’s just reality.

Likewise, though Hawley raises legitimate concerns about China’s treatment of Uighurs and Hong Kongers, scolding an American company for legally acting in its best financial interest is… um… certainly a choice for a U.S. Senator.

Also, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sent a profane two-word response in response to Hawley’s press release.

Wojnarowski:

NBA executive predicts every team will lose money next season

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The NBA is launching an unprecedented and ambitious operation – hosting the rest of its season in a centralized location with frequent testing – because that’s what’s necessary to play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

What about next season?

Coronavirus will likely remain a danger on Dec. 1, when the league hopes to begin. That threatens fan attendance. Heck, that could undermine teams playing at all in their home markets. All 30 teams, rather than just 22, adds complications.

Even if the season gets off the ground, there will be financial issues.

Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

“The truth is, things are changing so fast that, when it comes to next season, the best we can do is put a stake in the ground and make a guess,” an Eastern Conference team president said. “The reality is nobody is probably going to operate in the black next season.

“The only question is how much each of us are going to lose.”

NBA owners love to cry poor. The actual math often reveals a different picture. There are complexities that teams can hide.

Some teams have already cut employees salaries. But some teams are also doing extravagant things like shipping their courts to Disney World for practice:

Still, NBA commissioner Adam Silver estimated 40% of league revenue comes from ticket sales and other game-day sources. If teams are ever believable about losing money, it’d be now. Coronavirus has wrecked so many sectors of the economy.

Revenue falling significantly would be felt by players, who – per the Collective Bargaining Agreement – receive about half of Basketball Related Income. (That 50-50 agreement supersedes players’ stated salaries in their contracts.)

It’s undecided how and when players would suffer those losses.

The 2020-21 salary cap could be reduced. But that would put the burden on players – free agents, draft picks – signing new contracts next offseason.

That’s why the salary cap is reportedly expected to remain roughly flat. There are a couple options within that scenario.

Players could have a larger share of their salaries withheld (as they’re doing this season). Then, at the end of the season, owners would return whatever money is necessary to reach the 50-50 split. However, that would reduce players’ spending power during the season.

Or players could collect their usual salaries with an artificially high salary cap. However, that would likely mean they get more than their entitled 50% share and the salary cap would be reduce in future seasons to offset. Current players – some of whom won’t be in the league in future years – would probably love that. Owners likely wouldn’t accept paying players more sooner.

Increased withholding from player salaries is probably the best option. But there’s plenty to decide about the exact withholding amount and how long the money is held. To ensure enough money is withheld, the percentage should initially be fairly high. Then, as the revenue picture becomes clearer, the withholding amount could decrease in future paychecks.

Of course, that assumes the league finds a safe way to play. Which is the biggest challenge.