The Denver Nuggets had a choice when they got on the clock with the seventh pick Thursday night.
Plug the team’s most obvious hole — outside shooting — and nab Kentucky scoring machine Jamal Murray? Or choose the player with perhaps the highest ceiling still on the board, Washington freshman Marquese Chriss, who has the potential to be a star stretch 4 in today’s NBA?
The Nuggets went the safer route and drafted Murray. The decision was apparently a no-brainer for the team, which had the 19-year-old Canadian third on its big board after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, according to Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly.
The Nuggets got their guy at No. 7, and the pick makes sense on a lot of levels.
Denver was the fifth-worst 3-point shooting team (33.8 percent) in the NBA last season. Murray’s greatest skill is his outside shooting. He attempted an eye-popping 7.7 3’s per game as a freshman and knocked them down at a 40.8 percent rate. Murray can make them from deep in a variety of ways, whether he is coming off screens or spotting up. Only Steph Curry made more 3-pointers as a college freshman than Murray.
“His shot-making certainly was a huge need,” Connelly said. “I think you won’t find a harder working guy. He fits the mold of the type of player we’re trying to get in Denver.”
Murray, listed at 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds, is capable of playing both guard spots. He could fit nicely next to the always probing Emmanuel Mudiay, but it’s not hard to envision him handling the ball frequently when Gary Harris or Will Barton are playing alongside him.
“I’m a point guard in a shooting guard’s body,” said Murray, who averaged 20.0 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists last year at Kentucky.
The primary concern with Murray is his athleticism. He’s not particularly quick nor much of a leaper. He will face uber-athletic guards in the NBA every single night, unlike in college. How will that affect his ability to get his shot off? Will he be able to survive defensively?
Ultimately, Murray’s outside stroke and pure scoring ability were too difficult for Denver to pass up. Murray fell to seven Thursday — most mock drafts had him going higher — and the Nuggets happily took him. It’s hard to hate the pick.