Jamal Murray was “90 percent” sure he was staying in the 2016 class after dominating at the Nike Hoop Summit just this past April, but his continued rapid rise this summer has him as a potential top five pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. The talent of the Canadian product had been undeniable in past years, with many NBA draft gurus projecting him as a first-round pick in the 2017 draft.
In 2013, Murray got his first experience in international competition. He led Team Canada at the U-16 Americas Championship while notching 17.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.6 APG and 2.4 SPG. He’d follow that up with a solid showing at the 2013 Nike Global Challenge when he put up 10.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 1.8 APG. The experience helped Murray keep on improving while continuing to play on his AAU team, CIA Bounce, which produced consecutive No. 1 overall picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
At the 2014 FIBA U-17 World Championships, Murray averaged 16.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 2.9 APG, setting up the stage for him to make an impact for Team Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games. In his biggest international test yet, the 18-year old stepped up to the occasion, putting up 16.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 2.4 APG while leading Canada to a silver medal. Murray did it all – and that’s what makes him so attractive as a 6-foot-5, 200-pound combo guard.
Murray’s Pan American Games performance shook the scouting world, with NBA scouts placing him in their respective 2016 mock drafts as a potential top five pick. A month before Murray was dominating international competition, he committed to Kentucky over Oregon and a host of other schools. Murray made that commitment despite receiving a seven-figure contract to play one year overseas:
Roger Murray tells HHC his son Jamal Murray turned down a seven figure salary to play one year pro. Headed to Kentucky this fall.
— Hoops Hype Canada (@HoopsHypeCA) July 4, 2015
Now, Murray looks like he’ll be a part of a lethal three-guard lineup featuring one of the best lead guards in the country in Tyler Ulis and fellow 2015 five-star point guard Isaiah Briscoe. With fellow projected top pick Skal Labissiere up front, expect Kentucky to once again be one of the top teams in college basketball next season. If Kentucky can play deep into March next spring, look for Labissiere and Murray to be top five picks next year, and they might be drafted that high no matter what happens.
Murray has the talent to justify a top five selection, as he projects to be a lethal scorer both off the bounce and spotting up, which should allow him to play either guard spot at the highest level. The youngster is unselfish and capable of making plays for himself or others off the pick-and-roll. He’s deceptively athletic and has the length (6-8 wingspan) to make an impact on defense in the passing lanes.
However, Murray might lack the lateral quickness to stay in front of the NBA’s speediest guards. He should continue to add weight to his frame, which will help him provide resistance on the perimeter at the next level and could improve his athleticism.
Regardless, look for Murray to continue improving at a rapid pace in Lexington behind a coach and program who will continue their recent tradition of sending elite point guards to the NBA level as lottery picks.