Jamal Murray has emerged as one of the NBA’s brightest young stars. Consequently, he’s the subject of a new feature on ESPN.com – this one, about his pick-and-roll skills with the Denver Nuggets’ center, Nikola Jokic.
The story, written by Jackie MacMullan, details both players’ skill set and background, including their unique qualities. Jokic grew up in Sombor, Serbia, crying on his way to basketball practice as a young boy. He idolized Tim Duncan because “he wasn’t flashy,” and grew impressed by the ease of his pick-and-roll talents, alongside teammate Manu Ginobili.
Halfway around the world, in Ontario, Jamal Murray was watching history unfold between Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Years later, Murray and Jokic are now competing on the same roster, impersonating their childhood idols while making the pick-and-roll their own in an ever-evolving league. The article describes the new-age NBA as a place where “double-teams are scarce and switching is the norm, where 3-point shots are rampant and midrange jumpers are decried.” And yet, Murray and Jokic, a point guard and a big man, make the pick-and-roll work in their favor.
During the regular season, the Nuggets ran 171 plays with Murray as the screener and Jokic as the ball handler. That combination averaged 1.30 points per direct pick, per ESPN Stats & Information, tied for the best in the NBA. Last year, the Nuggets averaged 15 turnovers per game (23rd in the league), while giving their opponents 18.7 points per game off those turnovers (placing them at the bottom of the league). This season, Denver drastically improved those numbers: 13.7 turnovers per game, while only allowing their opponents 15 points off those mistakes. That’s good for sixth-best in the league.
Individually, they’ve earned plenty of praise along the way. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone compliments Murray in the article, mentioning “the underrated fact that Jamal Murray is our best screener.” They’ve also earned comparisons to some of the best pick-and-roll duos in the history of the game. But, don’t feel the need to force the similarities.
“What we’re doing is nothing like we’ve seen before. Of course, there will always be Stockton and Malone, and Nash and Stoudemire, but what we’re doing is different – unique,” Murray told ESPN. “Maybe they’ll be talking about Murray and the Joker someday.”
The Nuggets are currently playing against the Portland Trail Blazers in game seven of the second-round NBA playoffs. The game can be seen on ABC.