At various points in time, the Denver Nuggets have held David Thompson, Alex English, Carmelo Anthony, and Kentucky’s own Dan Issel to the highest level. They all supported the Nuggets during their 47-year NBA career, and three of them are members of the Naismith Hall of Fame (with Anthony about to follow).
None of these legends, however, made it beyond the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets have participated in four World Cups, the first one being in 1978, but the results have never changed. That is, until one of the league’s finest duos was created by a second-round Serbian and an unappreciated Canadian.
In Game 4 on Monday night, the Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 113-111 with the help of 55 points from Nikola Joki and Jamal Murray. The top-seeded Nuggets completed the sweep, eliminated the Lakers, and made it to their first NBA Finals appearance.
In the playoffs, Jamal Murray’s performance cemented his position as one of the best guards in the game. Murray, according to ESPN, became the first player in the history of the conference finals to average 30 points per game on a split of 50-40-90 shots.
Although many would lie and say Murray was required to act in this manner early in his career, this was not really the case.
Jamal Murray of Kentucky leads the Wildcats to the SEC Championship.
Fans of Kentucky will remember Murray as a First Team All-SEC selection who averaged 20 points per game during his one season playing for head coach John Calipari. He and Tyler Ulis, who is now a member of Calipari’s coaching staff, were an entertaining backcourt in Lexington.
Three times while wearing the blue and white, Murray scored 30 points in a single game, including 35 against Florida. However, the 6-foot-3 combo guard showed off his talent in the SEC tournament, leading Kentucky to another championship with an average of 22 points per game.
Jamal Murray’s time at Kentucky proved one thing: he performs well under pressure.
He ended with 16 points and seven rebounds despite Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament defeat to Indiana in the second round. After the loss, he was obviously prepared for the next level. Kentucky has achieved an unexpected and impressive feat by scoring 20 points each game on average. Murray was selected with the seventh selection of the 2016 NBA Draught, putting him in position to be selected in the top five. Murray was selected as the sixth guard off the board, which may sound great, but the league GMs’ disdain was clear.
At Draught Night, disrespect
The Timberwolves passed on Murray with the fifth overall pick in lieu of Providence junior Kris Dunn, noting that Dunn’s defence made him the better prospect. Before the draught, NBA writer Rahul Lal told CBS Sports that “I would take the safe bet of (Kris) Dunn on draught day because) he can play from day one and is still capable of turning into a true defensive stopper — He is also a safer bet to develop and is a low risk, high reward player.”
If it wasn’t already clear how Murray was seen that evening, the next option only served to exacerbate the situation. New Orleans chose the sixth pick because they needed a shooting guard. The majority of Murray’s time at Kentucky was spent away from the ball, so the Pelicans may have stumbled across an offensive star candidate. Unfortunately, their front desk employees picked Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield because they had a different notion.
Fans were reminded of the importance of Denver’s spectacular seventh pick last night by The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov. “This serves as a reminder that they would not be here today without him as the Denver Nuggets approach the NBA Finals and Carmelo Anthony retires,” he said. When Denver was forced to part ways with their main player, legendary prospect Carmelo Anthony, the return was the guard who broke the curse. The Nuggets chose Jamal Murray with the pick they received from the Knicks in the Carmelo transaction – a pick swap into the No. 7 slot in 2016. Jamal Murray had the option of selecting any of the six teams that had a selection before to Denver. But Jamal was fortunate because Nikola Jokic, who would go on to become one of the NBA’s best big men and a two-time MVP, was on the rise.
Whatever you like—injuries, exchanges, etc.
The NBA career of Jamal Murray has not been without its problems. In truth, Murray seldom goes a season without dealing with an injury or whispers of a move. Murray missed the whole 2021 season after tearing his ACL in a game against the Warriors on April 12, 2021. Since 2019, Murray has not participated in more than 60 games in a season. The whispers began to spread when a five-year, $158 million contract was coupled with the injury concerns.
In a recent interview with Sam Amick of the Athletic, Denver head coach Michael Malone spoke with the front office. “I distinctly recall Tim (Connelly) phoning and saying, “Hey, we can swap Jamal for this guy.” It was a huge name at the time, possibly three or four years ago. I said, “No.”Say what? Do not rush this process. A number of our patients run their own companies. Let’s (expletive) do things right and take our time.A superior product is not necessarily implied by a greater brand.
In the postgame press conference, Jokic brought up Murray’s trip even after the Nuggets won the series on Monday night. “He believed they would trade him. Additionally, he manages the game, plays well, and makes shots. I’m delighted for Jamal [Murray], who has shown that he is deserving of my support and is an outstanding player in our league.
However, many have forgotten where Murray’s breakthrough happened as a result of all the injuries and speculations occupying the minds of those who rejected Murray.
When the world collapsed due to the virus in early 2020 and the NBA sought refuge in the bubble at Disney World, Murray ultimately convinced the whole league that he was worth every penny. During a run to the Western Conference finals (where they lost to the Lakers, the same club Denver beat in 2023), Murray showed off his offensive brilliance.