The validation of Jamal Murray
Jokic's co-star has long been undersung. But big playoff moments tend to fix that.
Good morning. Let’s basketball.
The Life of Man; Jan Steen; 1665
Nikola Jokic makes the Nuggets competitive. Having an MVP-level player who suits up every night in today’s NBA: that can get you to competitive. You need help around that MVP-level player to become a contender, to become even a favorite. Jokic gets you most of the way there, but no single player can do all this all by themselves.
Jamal Murray is one of two players, with Michael Porter Jr., who in the eyes of the viewer either limits how good you think the Nuggets can be or elevates them to true contender or favorite status. Keep in mind that Murray’s never been an All-Star. Even in the season after his amazing bubble run, before he was knocked out for a year and a half with an ACL tear, he averaged 21-4-5 on quite efficient shooting … but wasn’t considered one of the top guards in the league.
Defense, a teamwide bugaboo, is part of the knock on him. So is playmaking, which doesn’t really hurt the Nuggets because Jokic is a supreme creator. Even when healthy he’s been considered a distinct tier below the top flight of guards like Luka, Curry, Shai, even Donovan Mitchell. How many would consider him even a top-10 guard in the NBA right now? Those four, Jaylen Brown, Ja Morant (availability pending), Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, Trae Young, Jrue Holiday? Where do you put him compared to De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, Darius Garland, even C.J. McCollum and James Harden, even (I regrettably have to say it) Kyrie Irving? I think he’s somewhere in the mix there and has been largely underrated, and it’s not a static, never-changing list. But this is to say that while most observers appreciate Maple Curry’s gifts, he’s not exactly seen as a juggernaut.
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