DENVER — Four games into his Denver Nuggets tenure, Jamal Murray had launched 16 shots from the field. Every single one—even the seven coming without a defender within four feet, per NBA.com—failed to find twine.
After he missed his first look against the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 5, he had officially begun his NBA career 0-of-17 and could have hung his head. He could have allowed his shooting woes to sink his confidence and plague him throughout his rookie season.
Instead, he’s begun to break out, compartmentalizing his poor performances and refusing to dwell on the not-so-distant past.
“When you look at the play of Jamal Murray of late, it’s really exciting,” Denver head coach Mike Malone said before a Nov. 16 contest with the Phoenix Suns. “You look at his numbers ever since he got over that 0-for-17 start … he’s been really good.”
How could it not be exciting? At that point, the first-year guard was coming off an impressive 18-point showing against the Portland Trail Blazers, in which he’d managed to drill a quartet of three-pointers during the game’s final 32 seconds:
Since then, he’s only continued to carve out a larger spot in the rotation, most recently torching the Utah Jazz’s much-ballyhooed defense for 18 points on only eight shots. Excluding his first four outings, Murray is averaging 11.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.2 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from the field, 45.2 percent from downtown and 75.0 percent from the charity stripe.
But nobody should be all that surprised; this guard is a sharpshooter.
During his lone season at Kentucky, he took 7.7 triples per game and drilled them at a 40.8 percent clip. He flashed his trademark bow-and-arrow celebration quite frequently while scoring 20 points per contest, and he’s now starting to fire away at imaginary NBA archery targets.
“I saw in his last game, he went 5-of-8 from three,” Devin Booker told Bleacher Report about his fellow Wildcat before the two went head-to-head. “Watched a couple of games. Watched him a lot in summer league. I’m really excited to see what he has in store for the rest of his career.”
But Booker might not be quite so excited after he was on the receiving end of this particular catch-and-shoot triple:
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By any measure, that’s a difficult shot.
Murray was forced to catch the ball outside the normal shooting slot, gather and fire away with his typical quick release as a defender charged. That’s not nearly as easy as catching an on-target feed and using your natural rhythm to convert the trey. Surely it must be something he’s practiced frequently.
“I just shoot the ball,” he said when asked about his training habits. “I don’t really need…I just put the ball in.”
The Nuggets won’t complain about that natural talent. Neither will they gripe about his improvements in other areas. Per numbers obtained from NBA Math, his all-around game has grown week-by-week:
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“His biggest area of improvement is going to be on the defensive end,” Malone said. “Offensively, I’m not too worried about him—he over-dribbles at times, but every time he shoots that thing, it’s going in. I have that kind of confidence in him…he’s just gotta be able to guard his position, contain the ball, make people feel him. And he will get there. I have no doubt in my mind.”
Murray’s already settling in as a slightly below-average defender. He’s overmatched in some one-on-one situations and has trouble navigating screens, but his instincts in passing lanes allow him to wreak havoc. He’s by no means a glaring negative for a …