Jamal Murray has been dealing with a hamstring issue for multiple weeks. After suffering the injury on November 4th, he has been rehabbing and working to make his return. Murray has now missed 11 games, and the team is in no rush to bring him back. While the defending champs maintain a positive record, there is a clear difference when he isn’t in the lineup. In his absence, the Denver Nuggets have a record of 6-5. With Murray, the team went 6-1. The good thing is this team can still compete and win games without him. So, why do the Nuggets need Jamal Murray?
Why the Denver Nuggets Need Jamal Murray
Murray is averaging 16.3 PPG and 7.4 APG this season. While those numbers may not be as high as his past years, it is still solid production. His assists this season are actually a career-high. Being able to score and playmake is huge for point guards, especially in Denver’s system. Another important thing to note is Murray’s efficient shooting, hitting almost 44% of his shots from three. Furthermore, whether Murray is on or off the court, Nikola Jokic scores and playmakes very well. With a big man that controls a lot of the offense himself, it makes sense why Murray’s points are lower. The 1-2 punch of Murray and Jokic is one of the best duos in the league, and the difference is significant when they aren’t on the floor together.
Pace and Pressure
With Murray on the floor, the entire Nuggets team flourishes. When he has the ball on a fast break, teams have to stop the ball. This creates weaknesses, and open teammates are always ready. He will shoot without hesitation if opposing teams choose not to stop the break. Teams are almost always left scrambling because of the constant pressure he puts on them. Open looks are there more times than not. Moreover, when Murray gets the team into half-court offense, other teams have no idea what he will do. He and Jokic are unstoppable in the pick-and-roll, and leaving others open doesn’t work. Denver’s team is filled with capable shooters, so whatever way other teams play them is dicey. Ultimately, the only real way to stop the Nuggets is if they miss open looks.
Murray’s Rotation in the Offense
When Murray is playing, he is the starting point guard. This also means he can take pressure off Jokic playing heavy minutes. In essence, he can play while Jokic rests and vice versa. For Denver, this is extremely beneficial. Having two stars instead of one means you can alternate their minutes to complement each other and the team. With him out, the secondary point guard (Reggie Jackson) starts, meaning they have no true backup. However, with Murray playing, Jackson and he can rotate with fluidity. Jackson fits well for the Nuggets, but Murray makes them that much better. In addition, having Murray in the lineup gives the whole team confidence. After all, what team doesn’t want to play at full strength? Lastly, this allows the pressure to come off of other players. With two stars, they can return to their roles without having to up their production. This gives less pressure all around.
To conclude, the Nuggets need Jamal Murray. Will they win games without him? Yes. Will they be able to make the postseason without him at full health? Most likely. However, rekindling the chemistry with the team is valuable. Also, Denver most likely won’t win games against the other great teams without Murray. While it is smart not to rush him back, the sooner they can have him, the better.