The Denver Nuggets are in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. They avenged their five-game loss in the 2020 Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers by sweeping them in 2023. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray balled out and uplifted their supporting cast to win the franchise’s biggest series to date.
Jokic will rightfully be the center of attention when it comes to the Nuggets. It’s kind of hard not to be when you put up the numbers he does and break one of Wilt Chamberlain’s records. But Murray deserves a ton of praise, too. His ability to run the offense with the ball and move without it has been huge, especially when he finds a zone and can carry the Nuggets with his unreal shooting off the bounce.
When Jokic was asked who he is most happy for after the Nuggets clinched their first Finals berth, he said Murray. After going through a tough injury and continuing to elevate his game, it’s no wonder that the two-time MVP is singing his praises.
Jamal Murray leads Kentucky to SEC Championship
Kentucky fans will remember Murray as a First-Team All-SEC selection and a 20-point-per-game scorer in his one year under head coach John Calipari. He and Tyler Ulis (now a member of Calipari’s coaching staff) proved to be an electrifying backcourt in Lexington.
Murray scored 30 points in a single game three times in blue-and-white, including 35 in a win over Florida. However, the 6-foot-3 combo guard proved his talent in the SEC tournament, leading Kentucky to another SEC Tournament championship behind a 22-point-per-game average.
His time at Kentucky proved one thing for certain — Jamal Murray shows up when it matters.
Even in UK’s second-round NCAA Tournament defeat to Indiana, he went for 16 points and seven rebounds. After the loss, it was apparent he was ready for the next level. Averaging 20 points per game for Kentucky is a rare and impressive feat. This would seemingly propel Murray into top-pick status as Denver selected him with the seventh pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. While this may sound great, the disrespect was apparent from league GMs as Murray was the fifth guard taken off the board.
“First Nuggets team to do this and that. We want to go all the way and stay locked in. I think our chemistry is at an all-time high, the way we play, the way we read the game without even speaking. We talk that language on the court. It’s just beautiful basketball, honestly. It’s so fun to play with this team and with (Jokic) and with the coaching staff that has groomed us into the team that we are.”
Murray, who averaged 30 points throughout the series, provides a dynamic one-two offensive punch alongside two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.
Jokic’s brothers were seen celebrating with Murray’s dad after the game in a video that went viral after being posted on Twitter.
Draft Night Disrespect
With the fifth pick, the Timberwolves passed on Murray for a junior out of Providence, Kris Dunn, citing Dunn’s defense as the reason he was the better prospect. NBA writer Rahul Lal wrote before the draft, “I would take the safe bet of (Kris) Dunn on draft day because he can play from day one and is still capable of turning into a true defensive stopper — He is also a safer bet to develop and is a low risk, high reward player.”
If that isn’t enough to illustrate how Murray was seen on draft night, the next pick added insult to injury. New Orleans decided with the sixth pick that they needed a shooting guard. With Murray spending the majority of his time at Kentucky off of the ball, the Pelicans stumbled their way into an offensive star prospect. Unfortunately, their front office thought of a different name, as they selected Buddy Hield out of Oklahoma.
The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov reminded fans last night of the implications of that famous seventh pick from Denver. He said, “As the Denver Nuggets near a NBA Finals berth and Carmelo Anthony retires, this a reminder that they wouldn’t be here today without him. Nuggets drafted Jamal Murray with the pick they received from the Knicks in the Carmelo trade – a pick swap into the No. 7 slot in 2016.”
As Denver was forced to trade their guy, the fabled prospect Carmelo Anthony, the return ended up being the guard that broke the curse. Jamal Murray could have gone to any of the six teams with a selection before Denver. But, things worked out for Jamal, as Nikola Jokic was on the verge of becoming one of the NBA’s best bigs and an eventual two-time MVP.
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