Denver Nuggets: How to move forward after Jamal Murray’s injury

Jan 7, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) sits on the bench before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) sits on the bench before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

In the final seconds of the Denver Nuggets‘ loss to the Golden State Warriors, Murray snatched the souls of Nuggets fans with an awkward landing. As soon as it happened it not only sucked the life out of Oracle Arena but also seemingly the entire Denver organization.  It looked like he hyper-extended the opposite knee that kept him out of the previous four games. Murray is widely considered to be a tough player when it comes to playing through pain, when he began slamming the floor everyone knew how serious this was.

The NBA world would soon find out that he had torn his ACL and will be shut down for the remainder of the year. A plethora of superstars and old teammates poured on the love online for Murray.

This ends up as a devastating blow to one of the best teams in the West who had a real chance at a title this year. Luckily for the Nuggets, their new big four is so young and under contract for at least one more year. Gordon’s deal expires next year, but Porter and Jokic are under contract until 2023 and Murray until 2025. Gordon and Porter seem like possibilities to leave sooner rather than later, while Murray and Jokic seem like the cornerstones the organization will build around, at least for the next few years.

What does Jamal Murray’s devastating injury mean for the Denver Nuggets?

The Nuggets need to get used to not having Jamal Murray offensive production around and will need some serious contributions from Aaron Gordon and the guards coming off the bench to try to mirror his efficiency and ability to score. During the previous four-game stretch that kept Murray out, it seemed Michael Malone did not really take the time to feature Gordon as a third option, however, now it is a necessity.

While Facundo Campazzo is nowhere near the offensive weapon Murray brings, his ability to create for his teammates off the dribble makes him a viable tool. However, for the Nuggets to be able to maintain this title shot Jokic will need to be more aggressive and hunt for his own shot more. If Facundo starts for them going forward the Nuggets will not need someone to create for others but rather a scorer.

Jokic will need to hunt for his shot more especially around the three-point line and will need to be more dominant down low. While the Joker is already playing at an elite, MVP caliber player this season however they will have to lean on him, even more, to replace about thirty points a game from the loss of Murray.

Expect Monte Morris’s role to increase as a secondary ball-handler. They will need him to play the role of Campazzo coming off the bench and facilitating the offense. Morris is a smart player with the basketball and can destroy teams with the pick and roll. He will likely always have a skilled screener and finisher on the floor. Malone will need to stagger the minutes with Porter, Jokic, and Gordon so they always have a dynamic playmaker on the floor.

Michael Porter Jr.’s role will also need to dramatically increase, and this is the perfect opportunity for the young scorer to grow his game. He has already proven himself as one of the most dominant wings in the paint, his perfect blend of length and athleticism allows him to finish at the rack with ease and force.

Porter has also shown his great ability to knock down shots off the catch but now he will have to be more accurate and take smarter shots off the bounce. Up to this point, one of Porter’s biggest flaws is his shot selection especially off the dribble and in transition.

While he can hit almost any shot on the court at any given moment, he will need to be more aware of taking the best shot opportunity.

This is the perfect opportunity to see what the Nuggets can squeeze out of Aaron Gordon. When the trade happened, I believed his fit to be perfect as the primary cutter and screener for Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Now the Nuggets will need to design looks for him in isolation, especially around the arc.

Ideally, he should average fifteen to twenty points a night with the injury to Murray, it will be interesting to see how Michael Malone goes about this.

While losing your most dynamic ball-handler and scoring option off the dribble is almost always a sign to tank, this Nuggets team might have a chance to be able to reproduce the scoring from Murray. It will be a much bigger weight on Porter and Gordon’s shoulders primarily but also the secondary guards like Facundo Campazzo, Monte Morris, and maybe even PJ Dozier. Expect the Nuggets to look at the buyout market, Austin Rivers might be an ideal fit here.

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