How should the Denver Nuggets handle the return of Jamal Murray?

Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets practices before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Ball Arena on 14 Nov. 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets practices before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Ball Arena on 14 Nov. 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /

It has been a tough year for the Denver Nuggets. Without star players Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets are currently sitting in the sixth seed of the Western Conference.

However, there is reason for optimism among Nuggets Nation. While MPJ is likely missing the entire season after Denver received a disabled player exception for his injury, Murray appears on track to play.

Murray underwent surgery for a torn ACL nearly ten months ago and the Nuggets haven’t ruled out the possibility of a return.

Luckily, we’ve seen players return from knee injuries similar to Murray’s. Most recently, Zach LaVine, Victor Oladipo, and Spencer Dinwiddie have provided an example for Jamal, all reaching out with words of encouragement for Denver’s star guard.

Despite another MVP-worthy season by Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets have looked at times like a middling team. The Nuggets may decide that the best course of action is to let Murray fully recover instead of rushing him into playing time for the playoffs.

If the Nuggets do think Murray is ready to play, what should their approach be in bringing him back?

Should Jamal Murray come off the bench when he returns for the Denver Nuggets?

The idea of having Murray come off the bench isn’t a new one for players returning from major injuries. The Golden State Warriors considered bringing their star guard Klay Thompson off the bench, but ultimately elected to have him start.

It’s been an up-and-down return for Thompson, but the Warriors have handled his health well so far.

I believe the Nuggets should do the same with Jamal Murray. Murray is at his best when he plays alongside Nikola Jokic, and the two create a dynamic force when closing games. Re-establishing the chemistry between the two should be the Nuggets’ top priority if they are truly chasing a title this season.

The play of Monte Morris this season will also give Michael Malone the peace of mind to bring Murray along at his own pace. Morris has filled in admirably for Murray and is more than capable of spelling him in order to give Jamal the rest he needs.

On top of Monte, Bones Hyland has proven that he is capable of running the bench unit should Morris need to start for Jamal Murray. It hasn’t been perfect for Hyland, but he has shown the flashes to boost the bench unit into respectable territory.

The Denver Nuggets have the available players to give Murray the time he needs to return, and those players should be used accordingly. While the Nuggets may ultimately choose to bring Murray off the bench, I believe inserting him right back into the starting lineup makes a ton of sense.

Will Jamal Murray stagger with the bench unit for the Denver Nuggets?

Eventually, but not right away.

Using Murray and Porter with the bench unit was one of the keys for the Nuggets when they were at their peak. This should be their ultimate goal, but the Nuggets should take things slow with Murray when first returning.

The Nuggets would be smart to put a minute restriction on Murray when he first returns, as he will be desperate to get back out onto the court as much as possible. Using five to seven-minute stints alongside the starters would be a good use of his available time.

If the Denver Nuggets do bring Murray back in time for the playoffs, the goal would be to have him ready to stagger by the playoffs. Allowing Jamal to run with the bench unit will give the group a new ceiling, and could be the difference for the Nuggets in a playoff series.

Excitement is brewing in the Mile High City, with the potential return of fan-favorite Jamal Murray. However, Denver must ensure that they have a strong plan before bringing him back.

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