Something is missing from Jamal’s game.
The easiest thing to point at is confidence. Jamal Murray isn’t playing with the swagger of last year’s version. He’s playing hard, maybe too hard. He has that classic look of wheel-spinning effort that betrays a lack of confidence. There’s working through a slump and there’s trying to force a slump into submission. The latter is necessary sometimes but it creates its own set of challenges.
A Twitter commenter noted that Jamal looks like he’s “in-between” and that is as apt a description as any of where the 21 year-old is at. He’s clearly been rattled regarding his decision-making and looks indecisive at his position.
Pundits can only come up with “he’s not a true point guard” to inadequately explain Murray’s struggles. We know that there’s not much traditional about this team so pining away for a traditional point guard is folly. We also know that Jamal’s shooting will improve and as it does, so should the confidence that comes with it. We caught it briefly in the 48-point game.
What it looks like from a wide view is that there is an unintentional power struggle on the Nuggets offense. Murray spoke on media day about being more aggressive, shooting more, becoming more of a go-to guy for the Nuggets. We love to hear that but also we remember that there’s only one ball and the Nuggets have already established who needs to be the decision-maker. It’s not Murray and that could be awkward, expectations have risen for Jamal but there’s a hard ceiling for any of the Nuggets starters in the form of Jokic. Messing with the unicorn is a dangerous game.
The effort has been there but it’s manifested in indecisive play and turnovers more than confident scoring. Even defensively, we’ve seen that effort with uncertainty from Murray. He gets caught way too often sagging off of his man to help in the paint only to see his cover bury wide-open shots. Key on him on the defensive end for a couple of possessions and you’ll see it. His hedge toward the lane seems timid which blows the defensive coverage. It happens a lot.
The consensus is that Jamal will be fine and that at 21, there’s going to be bumps in the road in his development. The subject of much comparison, Stephen Curry, didn’t really get going until the playoffs in his third season. That seems reasonable but Denver Nuggets fans have trouble being patient