18-year-old Jamal Murray was the second youngest player in the Pan American Games, but age didn’t prevent him from leading Canada to a silver medal.
No player in the tournament compared to Murray talent-wise. He is a projected lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, while J.J. Barea was the only proven NBA contributor in the competition. Everybody else was fringe talent at best, including Anthony Bennett and Andrew Nicholson.
It was, nonetheless, impressive how the teenager performed against players far more experienced and physically developed than him, and how he established himself as a lock for the Canadian team that will play the FIBA Americas — if NCAA rules allow it.
Murray’s impressive performance came on the heels of him dominating his age group in the Nike Hoop Summit. He scored 30 points on 23 shots and dished five assists in 31 minutes, leading the World Team to a two-point victory against the United States.
Murray’s top skill is his ability to get into the lane and create a shot for himself or others. He didn’t play any sort of secondary role, running side pick-and-rolls off a live dribble with the defense already scrambled. Murray was relied upon to create against a set defense in the half-court and proved able to do so consistently against that level of competition.
Murray doesn’t have an explosive first step but can change speed to get around defenders and turn the corner out of the pick-and-roll. Despite not playing with impressive speed, Murray demonstrated the ability to get where he wants to go on the court – a skill expected to translate to college basketball, as shown in the Hoop Summit. He also has good handles and decent quickness from side-to-side, forcing opponents to hesitate.
Murray has proven himself as a willing passer on the move, particularly ahead in transition. In the half-court, he reads rotations well and knows how cutters and spot-up shooters can benefit off his drives. He is not the sort of pure passer who anticipates passing lanes and sees plays develop one second ahead of everybody else, though. Murray is not allergic to passing by any means, but when he is running offense, he is more likely to create a shot for himself than others.
FINISHING & SHOOTING
Murray strongly favors driving left and can finish with some explosiveness on straight line drives but doesn’t often attack the basket with force. He has, however, flashed the ability to hang in the air to finish against length and through contact. He’s shown the makings of a tear-drop floater when help defense keeps him from getting to the rim, too. When he attacked with his dominant hand, Murray was less decisive on his drives and has trouble sustaining his momentum forward through contact, often opting for step-back pull-ups.
Murray proved himself a capable shooter off the bounce, even from 3-point range. He is able to generate enough space to load his shot with his step-back and has a quick enough trigger to get his shot off, despite the fact he doesn’t have a particularly high release point.
Murray is listed at 6-4, the sort of height that helps him shoot over the top of smaller point guards. However, it could also give him trouble if guarded by lengthier wings, which was not the case in the Pan American Games where he was guarded by mostly point guards.
Murray’s shot looks tougher to contest on catch-and-shoot opportunities. He elevates off the ground with good balance, turns in the air and exhibits sound mechanics. According to RealGM, Murray converted 11 of his 27 3-point shots in the Pan American Games and has a track record of shooting over 40 percent on such shots in the 2013 Nike Global Challenge and the 2013 FIBA Americas U16. The only anomaly: a lousy 28.6 percent performance in the 2014 World Championships U17.
Murray played defense with effort, getting in his stance and working hard to go over screens consistently. He did not show the burst of quickness necessary to navigate the pick and recover to the guard driving to make plays as a trailer, though.
Individually, Murray looked quite good in the Hoop Summit. He was able to contain dribble penetration through contact by players his own age and possesses a 6-7 wingspan to help him disrupt passing lanes and make an impact contesting shots, though this is mostly potential at this point as he hasn’t proven to be an impact player on defense just yet.