At Thursday night’s NBA Draft, Jamal Murray was selected seventh overall to the Denver Nuggets, giving coach John Calipari his 20th first-round pick at Kentucky.
Though being selected in the top ten is an unbelievable accomplishment for anyone, many UK fans were disappointed he didn’t end up playing alongside Karl Anthony-Towns in Minnesota, Boogie and WCS in Sacramento, or the cast of Kentucky guards in Phoenix. Nonetheless, Kentucky fans were excited for Jamal on his accomplishment as he moved on to the next chapter of his life. Others, however, weren’t so enthusiastic and ready to celebrate.
The moment he walked across the stage and shook commissioner Adam Silver’s hand, the talking heads on ESPN began pointing out the flaws in Murray’s game. Jay Williams highlighted his lack of lateral quickness on defense, underwhelming athleticism, and suspect ball handling for a point guard. Even former Cat Patrick Patterson had to call out Williams on the critical analysis.
Jay Williams(Duke) of course talks about Jamal(UK) weakness rather than strengths. Not surprising. #bbn
– Patrick Patterson (@pdpatt) June 24, 2016
You know who else was given similar treatment coming out of college?
You guessed it, Steph Curry, two-time MVP and 2015 NBA Champion.
Coming out of Davidson, analysts said Curry wasn’t athletic enough compared to elite guards, had mediocre ball handling skills, and couldn’t defend his shadow. In fact, here is Steph reading off his own scouting report last year following his brilliant MVP season.
Everyone knew the kid could light it up from outside, but his lack of true point guard skills scared off teams with the first six picks. There he sat, available for the Golden State Warriors to snatch him up with the seventh pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio, and Jonny Flynn, all considered the “safe picks” at the time, were selected before Curry. Yeah, Blake Griffin, Tyreke Evans and James Harden panned out as top five draft picks. Hell, even Ricky Rubio is at least still playing in the league, but can’t shoot to save his life and Minnesota is desperately trying to unload him. But Thabeet and Flynn? There’s absolutely nothing positive to say about those two. Flynn didn’t get through two seasons in Minnesota before being sent down to the D-League, before eventually being cut. Thabeet is stuck in the D-League, and hasn’t played a minute in the NBA since 2014. He has career averages of 2.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, and 0.8 BPG.
Golden State’s 2009-10 roster in Curry’s rookie season compiled of Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, and UK’s own Kelenna Azubuike, and finished just 26-56.
Curry soon became the face of the franchise, had a roster assembled around him, and helped pave the way for one of the greatest teams in the history of basketball.
Denver’s 2016-17 roster consists of Danilo Gallinari, Emmanuel Mudiay, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Gary Harris, and Will Barton, among others. Several talented pieces, but not contending for a title anytime soon.
Murray comes in as the guy many are doubting. Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield were the “safe pick” selections ahead of him. The story is writing itself.
I’m not saying Murray is the next Steph Curry, don’t get me wrong here. Curry is arguably one of, if not the greatest shooters of all time, and does things that honestly one can’t even put to words. I’m also not saying the Nuggets will become a 73-win team and compete for titles year in and year out like Golden State.
That being said, Murray is the best shooter in the draft and it really isn’t close. He will step in immediately and dominate from behind the arc, and eventually become one of the top scorers in the game. He has the ability to become the face of a franchise that really doesn’t have a true identity and allow the team to be molded around his abilities.
Would it have been fun to see him paired up with Boogie, KAT, or Booker? Sure. But Murray has the ability to write his own story in Denver. He was the kid many thought would struggle against elite defenses, his flaws outweighing the strengths he brought to the table.
We all knew what we had in Murray’s time at UK.
A new seventh overall selection is set to make the NBA world find out the hard way.