Could Kentucky’s Jamal Murray be a Buck this Fall? Photo via ftw.usatoday.com
Vitals: Standing at 6’4″ with a 6’7″ wingspan Jamal Murray fails to blow anyone away with his frame, but he does have sufficient size to guard both back court spots. He will turn 2o next February making him one of the younger players available, even for a one and done prospect. Originally from Canada Murray reclassified after some standout performances at the Nike Hoop Summit and enrolled at One & Done university in Lexington.
Intro: The Kentucky Wildcat found many ways to score this year to the tune of 20 points per game. He was Kentucky’s second best player in their season that netted them an NCAA tournament berth. He struggled initially when tasked with any on ball offensive duties and was able to truly thrive when Calipari made the decision to move him off ball and let Tyler Ulis handle the rock for the majority of games.
-Three Point Shooting: Murray made over 3 threes a game this year at a 40.2% rate, his total of 3pm ranked 8th in the country the only underclassmen in the top 25. He was second among power conference players in threes made behind only Naismith winner Buddy Hield (who is three years Murray’s elder).
-Offensive Basketball I.Q.: Murray is a wizard off ball, he is able to use screens and navigate the court to get himself open looks from 3. He always catches in a triple threat position so if his man is over aggressive on a closeout he can make him pay. He knows when to cut and how to maintain spacing like few 19 year olds do, which is very helpful for teams with lesser shooters.
-Size: At 6’4″ with length Murray has the size and bulk to guard both back court spots. He won’t be the tallest guard always, but having sufficient size for both spots is definitely a plus.
-Handles: Murray has some of the weaker handles in this guard class. He was taken off-ball in part because of this, drastically raising his play, while lowering his value.
-On-ball skills: Murray had the reputation of being capable with the ball prior to his Big Blue Nation days, while at Kentucky he showed a concerning lack of skills with the ball, causing him to be moved off ball. This was not a huge cause for concern, because being moved off-ball in favor of Tyler Ulis might have said more about Ulis than Murray.
Rookie Year for Milwaukee:
Murray should be able to grab backup minutes at both guard spots, as long as he can be adequate defensively. His shooting should translate, but nothing is ever guaranteed. His minutes as a rookie will need to be staggered with someone more capable of creating looks for teammates, it will need to be his biggest area of improvement if he ever wants to start.
If the Bucks would somehow attain Murray I would expect them to start him in the rotation, meaning they would acquire less quality guards than they otherwise would. I think he could step into a lesser facilitating O.J. Mayo role accept hit shots like Mayo did a few years back instead of this past season. Kidd has shown a willingness to get rookies some burn and experience, so no matter who the Bucks pick they will get time.
Future for Milwaukee:
The Bucks will need to be active on draft night if they want to have any chance at Murray, as the odds of him falling to 10 are very slim at this point. He is one of few freshman prospects who had standout years worth all-conference consideration, making him a hot commodity. His shooting has been so solid even before Kentucky that it is the rare skill that should be a near lock to translate.
In Milwaukee there would be hope that he could eventually start at the 1 alongside the current core 3. I think a lineup like that could minimize Jamal’s weaknesses by putting three good creating wings next to him. Ideally Murray would just run off screens around the court sort of like JJ Redick until he finds an opening and then attack from there. I would try and play him off ball as a tertiary scorer.
Hopefully he would develop handles so he could play on ball some and give Giannis breaks from initiating, the Bucks could afford to be patient with Murray, unlike some teams near the top of the lottery they have guys who are capable of creating alongside him. Murray could spend most of his career in Milwaukee playing primarily off ball, which would give him time to grow slowly instead of forcing him into a role he would not be comfortable with.