A Bright Future Ahead for Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets

Jamal Murray Denver Nuggets
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When the Denver Nuggets scored a thrilling game seven victory over the San Antonio Spurs in late April, it marked the franchise’s first playoff series triumph since the spring of 2009. Leading the team to victory were their two young stars, 24-year-old Nikola Jokic, and 22-year-old Jamal Murray.

“We never lost our composure. Jamal Murray down the stretch was phenomenal. Jokic, however,  was struggling to make shots in the fourth quarter but he ended up recording a triple-double. Just really proud of our guys,” said Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone after their 90-86 game seven victory over the Spurs.

Jokic scored 21 points and recorded a triple-double. Murray poured in a game-high 23 points. Combined, they led the Nuggets to their first playoffs series victory since the Carmelo Anthony-led Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals back in the spring of 2009.

Jamal Murray Steps Up for the Denver Nuggets and Shows Star Potential

Enjoying the Journey

“It’s been a journey,” said the third-year point guard while sitting next to Jokic in the post-game seven presser.

“Especially the first two years just battling, and coming off the bench, then starting. It’s been a journey with a lot of ups and downs. But it’s been fun.”

Humble Beginnings in Kitchener, Ontario

Murray’s journey to the NBA started out in Kitchener, Ontario. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Toronto – where he was introduced to the sport during his early childhood by his father, Roger Murray.

A young Murray developed a passion for basketball. He would put in hours of work on the court to improve his skills. Murray’s hard work and dedication would pay off. By the time he was 12 or 13, he had the talent to compete and hold his own in pick up games against top-rated high school and college players.

A High School Standout

As a high school standout, Murray opted not to relocate to the U.S. to attend an American prep school. Instead, the Kitchener native decided to attend Orangeville Prep – located just northwest of Toronto. The program has turned out a number of current NBA players including Thon Maker and Ignas Brazdeikis.

Murray was recruited by a number of Division 1 NCAA programs. However, he would choose to play for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.

One and Done in Kentucky

It was during his time with the Wildcats that he earned the nickname The Blue Arrow as he would often fire off a bow and arrow in celebration after hitting a big shot.

In his one season with Kentucky, he averaged 20 points per game and shot 40.8 percent on his three-point attempts. Murray would be named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and also earned third-team All-American honors.

Upon the completion of his freshman year, the 6’4″ Canadian would declare himself eligible for the 2016 NBA draft.

And after being selected with the seventh overall pick by the Denver Nuggets, Murray had nothing but praise for his college coach and the basketball program at Kentucky.

“(Coach Calipari) taught me a lot of two-guard stuff, coming off screens, the angle to come off of, shot selection, the different reads that are going to be there when you get to the paint. Just a lot. A great college decision, the best school in the NCAA, and the best coach,” noted Murray.

Something to Prove

Also on draft night, Murray spoke about wanting to prove himself to the Nuggets’ organization and their fans.

“I’m very excited. So much to give to this game, just blessed to be in the NBA and helping this team in any way I can, and I know this team really wants me, so I’ll be delivering the most to them,” said the young Canadian.

“I always believe I’m the best player, and when a team really sees the number one choice, as Denver did, then I just want to play for them more. I want to give them all I’ve got.”

Shaky Start but Steady Improvement Ever Since

Murray’s NBA career would get off to a shaky start as he would miss his first 17 field goal attempts. Despite the slow start, he would go on to enjoy a strong rookie season. He earned NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors, as well as, MVP honors at the Rising Stars Challenge.

Murray has shown steady improvement during his time in the NBA. In his sophomore season, he bumped up his scoring average up to 16.7 points per game while shooting better than 45 percent from the field. He would follow that up by averaging 18.2 points per game to go with 4.8 assists per game and 4.2 rebounds per game during the 2018-2019 season – which helped the Nuggets to the second seed in the Western Conference.

Murray would step it up a notch in the postseason. He averaged 21.3 points per game and was a big reason the Nuggets came within just one game of reaching the Western Conference Finals.

Following in the heels of his solid performance in the 2019 playoffs, the Nuggets made it clear that they wanted Murray to be part of the team’s bright future ahead. They re-signed the 22-year-old to a max contract. It was reported to be worth about $170 million over five years.  While Murray spoke about proving himself to the Nuggets’ organization and their fans on draft night, he now has even more reason to prove himself in the upcoming season, and beyond.

Championship Aspirations

Led by Jokic and Murray, and surrounded by a strong core of complimentary players, it appears the journey ahead for the Denver Nuggets will include many more ups than the downs they’ve experienced over the previous 10 years.

More importantly, it’s a journey that could very well lead Murray and his Nuggets teammates to the pinnacle – and perhaps the thrill of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at some point within the next ten years.

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