Jamal Murray has had a rollercoaster of a rookie campaign. The first year player out of Kentucky has had some spectaular games, while also seeing his minutes dwindle to almost nothing, only to have them rise once again.
Murray was able to showcase his skills early in the season, with Gary Harris and Will Barton missing a large chunk of November through injury. He was awarded the Western Conference’s Rookie of the Month award for October/November after averaging 12.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 41 percent shooting. Murray had a stretch of four games scoring in the double figures, posting totals of 18, 23, 20 and a career high 24 in a win against the Bulls.
When Harris and Barton returned however, Murray’s time on the floor was cut and it his shooting percentages slid. His three-point percentage went from 42 percent down to 24.6 percent in December while his overall shooting percentage dipped to 35 percent.
The Blue Arrow averaged around 18 minutes per game across December and January, sometimes only appearing in the first half of games. He had a 15 game stretch where he failed to score more than 10 points during those months.
Like all good players though, Murray was able to break out of his slump with a return to form in February. An unfortunate injury to starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay allowed Murray the opportunity to illustrate his potential. Whilst backing up veteran Jameer Nelson, Murray posted averages of 11.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists on almost 40 percent shooting. He scored in double figures in eight of a possible 13 games played in February, whilst playing around 21 minutes a game.
His elevation in play was highlighted by his spectacular performance in the Rising Stars Challenge at NBA All-Star weekend in which he scored a game high 36 points and recorded 11 assists on his way to winning the games MVP award. He connected on nine attempts from downtown and paced the World team down the stretch to pull out the victory.
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Post All-Star break, Murray has remains a key part of head coach Michael Malone’s rotation despite the fact Mudiay has returned from injury. Malone has opted to start Jameer Nelson in place of Mudiay, while making Murray the permanent back up. Mudiay has registered a number of DNP-CD’s since returning and it appears that Malone is sticking with this current point guard rotation for now.
With a defined role on the team, and a guaranteed 18-22 minutes per night, Murray should be able to make a serious case in the final 20 games that he is the NBA Rookie of the Year for 2017.
However, he will need to beat out both Malcolm Brogdon and Dario Saric. Let’s take a look at how Murray’s numbers compare to theirs.