The scoring guard out of Kentucky had finally broken the 20 points per game mark and was dishing out 4.8 assists while shooting 47 percent from the floor and an excellent 41 percent from behind the arc.
Denver made the right choice in keeping Murray on the bench for the entire 2021-22 season, ensuring he’s fully healthy for the upcoming season. What will his numbers look like when he returns this season?
Right after tearing his ACL, I compared Jamal Murray’s road to recovery to that of Zach LaVine in 2017. As an athletic scoring guard, there are some comparisons between their games, and thankfully for the Denver Nuggets, LaVine has only grown as a player after the injury.
LaVine was traded to the Chicago Bulls while recovering and he didn’t suit up for his new team until the end of the 2017-18 season. Those final games for Chicago were ugly but the team wasn’t in the mix for a playoff spot and it gave LaVine the opportunity to get some games reps.
The following season, his usage increased and he averaged a then-career-high 23.7 points per contest and was shooting the ball much more effectively, putting in 116.1 points per 100 possessions which placed him in the 81st percentile according to Cleaning the Glass.
His injury also didn’t slow down his aggression, in fact, he took more shots at the rim than he did in any of his past seasons and averaged six free throw attempts per game. Both those statistics are career highs for him now, even compared to this season, his breakout season.
There’s reason to believe that Jamal Murray could see a similar return to play in 2022-23. While Murray missed out on some late-season game reps, deciding to stay on the bench, he has been able to practice at full strength this offseason, including training with the Canadian national team.
When training camp starts in a couple of weeks, Jamal will be playing at his full capacity and should ramp up into the season like normal.
But back to the initial question of what will his stats look like. I believe he’ll see an uptick in points per game, setting another career high, as the Nuggets look to focus more on their big three on offense.
Nikola Jokic is now established as one of the league’s best players but as one of the best passing big men in NBA history, he’s the kind of teammate that’s happy getting shots for his teammates. I don’t think there’ll be any issue of too many ball handlers.
Michael Porter Jr. is also returning but while dealing with his own back injuries, he should settle in as the third option on offense behind Jamal and Jokic.
The Nuggets have shaped their roster around these three stars, flanking them with low-usage role players like Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Other key rotation pieces like Zeke Nnaji, Jeff Green, Bruce Brown, and Bones Hyland will be out there to share the ball and stretch the floor for the big three.
In a best-case scenario, Jamal could average around 25 points per game, establishing himself as one of the better scoring guards in the league. Especially if MPJ’s back problems persist, sidelining him for periods of time, this Nuggets roster could feature a lot of Jokic-Jamal pick-and-rolls.
The biggest stat that Jamal should replicate is his shooting from behind the 3-point line. He’ll likely start the season shooting lower than usual but it’ll be important to watch his numbers in the second half of the season, once he has his legs under him again.