The Summer Workout Plan is a weekly series breaking down what certain players can do to take their game to another level this season. First up were OG Anunoby, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
This week, we're putting Jamal Murray's game under a microscope.
Jamal Murray had to make a move.
There were only five seconds remaining when the Denver Nuggets guard looked up at the shot clock, and Steven Adams stood between him and the basket. With precious time ticking away, Murray improvised by hitting the 7-footer with a series of crossovers you'd expect to see from his favorite player.
Adams did a decent job of keeping Murray in front of him. Then, Murray made him snap.
Following five quick crossovers, Murray sent the Oklahoma City Thunder center tumbling to the floor with a well-timed step back. He immediately took advantage by draining a wide open 3-pointer with just over a second to spare that extended Denver's lead to 18 points over their division rivals.
Even though he's only two years removed from being selected with the No. 7 pick in the draft, that's a shot Murray is already comfortable taking. According to NBA.com, almost a fifth of his field goal attempts were pull-ups from 3-point range in his sophomore season. He was was one of only 29 players to attempt at least 150 of those shots, putting him on the same page as the likes of Paul George, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.
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The problem is Murray didn't make those looks at a particularly high rate. Out of that same group of players, Murray ranked 20th in making just under a third of those opportunities. Some of the names surrounding him: Jrue Holiday, Dennis Smith Jr., Russell Westbrook and Spencer Dinwiddie.
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Being able to shoot from long range off the dribble is an important shot for any point guard in today's NBA because of the options it opens up in isolation and pick-and-rolls, two plays Murray finished around league average in scoring efficiency last season. It's especially important for someone like Murray, who entered the league with questions about how his speed and athleticism would translate to the NBA.
While Murray will never be the type of explosive athlete that Westbrook is, establishing himself as a reliable pull-up threat from 3-point range would elevate his game to the next level. Not only would make it nearly impossible for players like Steven Adams to stick with him in isolation, defenders wouldn't be able to duck underneath screens in pick-and-rolls as much as they currently do.
Murray's response to drop coverages last season was primarily a pull-up from midrange. He knocked down those shots at one of the highest rates in the league - an encouraging sign as he continues to work on his range - but he'd benefit from turning more of those long 2s into 3s when possible.
It's a subtle yet crucial adjustment as Murray continues to ascend. If he can make that leap off the dribble, it would help the Nuggets contend in the Western Conference by giving them a clear No. 2 option on offense.
It would also put Murray on the path to stardom.