Never forget Jamaal Murray, the NBA’s only non-All-Star superstar

Nikola Jokic received all 11 votes for the 2023 NBA Finals MVP award, leading the Denver Nuggets to the franchise’s first championship, but let’s never forget the contributions of his pick-and-roll partner, Jamaal Murray. The single greatest player to not make an All-Star team.

That won’t last as long as the 26-year-old point guard continues to work on his skills. He may not finish 12th again in All-Star voting among Western Conference guards before tearing his left ACL, as he did in 2021. It took him until these playoffs to get back to the level he reached on the bubble where he was a certified killer in Denver’s run to the Western Conference Finals, and people quickly forgot.

Murray’s ability to reach those same heights again and surpass them should make us all wonder what could have been had the past two postseasons not been plagued by injury. At the very least, we should do the future right and reassess his current place in the star guard pecking order in a league full of them.

“You’re always challenged to be an All-Star and an All-NBA player, and you have to be the guy that puts this team on your back with Nikola,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said during the finals.

Only four players have averaged 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds en route to a championship, and they are LeBron James (2016 and 2020), Michael Jordan (1991) and now both Jokic and Murray. That’s it – two of the best players in NBA history and two of the best players on a title-winning team.

A very arbitrary number? Build a 25-5-5 average on your way to a ring, and the list expands to include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rick Barry, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Hal Greer, John Havlicek and Dwyane Wade, all Hall of Famers. Of the 12 players who achieved those marks in winning the championship, eight were regular season And The ultimate MVPs. The others are Greer, Havlicek, Wade and Murray. The top three shared 36 All-Star appearances between them, with at least 10 each, the other being Jamal Murray.

See also  'Phantom of the Opera' super fans bid farewell to Broadway's longest-running show

Now, the best 25-5-5 championship runs of each of those players by scoring ability:

  1. Stephen Curry2017 Golden State Warriors (65.9 TS%)

  2. LeBron James2020 Los Angeles Lakers (64.7 TS%)

  3. Nikola Jokic2023 Denver Nuggets (63.1 TS%)

  4. Larry Bird1986 Boston Celtics (61.5 TS%)

  5. Michael Jordan1991 Chicago Bulls (60.0 TS%)

  6. Giannis Antetokounmpo2021 Milwaukee Bucks (59.9 TS%)

  7. Dwyane Wade2006 Miami Heat (59.3 TS%)

  8. Jamal Murray2023 Denver Nuggets (58.6 TS%)

  9. Kobe Bryant2010 Los Angeles Lakers (56.7 TS%)

  10. John Havlicek1974 Boston Celtics (53.5 TS%)

  11. Rick Barry1975 Golden State Warriors (50.5 TS%)

  12. Hal Greer1967 Philadelphia 76ers (48.7 TS%)

Denver Nuggets point guard Jamaal Murray smokes a cigar inside the locker room while holding the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy after winning the NBA Championship against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

What stands out in this group beyond collective greatness is the presence of both Jokic and Murray. No other team has achieved those statistical milestones together Jokic’s ascension into the sport’s pantheon Leaving Murray in the shadow of the postseason championship legacy debate, the Finals MVP never leaves his teammate out of any conversation about the topic.

“He’s been our best player since Round 1, and even when he’s not making shots, his energy is always good,” Jokic said when asked if Murray deserved more national attention. “I think that’s a great feeling for the guys around him. We know he can make shots, he can go 50, but even when things don’t go his way, he doesn’t get down. He’s still playing. He’s still fighting. I think that’s the best thing about him right now. I think.”

A short list of powerhouse championship duos are the glyphs of NBA history. Bill Russell and Bob Goosey. Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. Moses Malone and Julius Erving. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

See also  Saturday March Madness: South Carolina will be perfect

Where do Jokic and Murray’s combined offensive stats rank in relation to those tandems during their most potent championship runs? Third in scoring, third in shooting ability and first in playmaking.

  • Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant2001 Lakers: 59.8 PTS (55.9 TS%), 9.3 AST

  • Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant2017 Warriors: 56.6 PTS (67.0 TS%), 11.0 AST

  • Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray2023 Nuggets: 56.1 PTS (60.9 TS%), 16.6 AST

  • Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen1993 Bulls: 55.2 PTS (53.4 TS%), 11.6 AST

  • LeBron James and Dwyane Wade2012 Heat: 53.1 PTS (55.3 TS%), 9.9 AST

  • Larry Bird and Kevin McHale1986 Celtics: 50.8 PTS (62.5 TS%), 10.9 AST

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson1980 Lakers: 50.2 PTS (60.5 TS%), 12.5 AST

  • Moses Malone and Julius Erving1983 76ers: 44.4 PTS (54.6 TS%), 4.9 AST

  • Tim Duncan and Tony Parker2007 Spurs: 43.0 PTS (53.9 TS%), 9.1 AST

  • Bill Russell and Bob Goosey1962 Celtics: 38.4 PTS (46.6 TS%), 13.8 AST

  • Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West1972 Lakers: 37.6 PTS (48.4 TS%), 12.2 AST

None of those pairings produced more points per game than Denver’s duo. Not Shaq and Kobe. Not Steph and Caddy. Not MJ and Pippen. Not LeBron and D-Wade. nobody is here. Feel free to dismiss this as a result of the NBA’s 3-point range, but that doesn’t account for their proximity to Curry and Durant on this list, and their presence in the duo’s ballpark should be enough to respect. Murray’s Contributions.

“I’ve always felt that Nikola and Jamaal Murray are one of the most elite and dangerous two-man combos in the NBA, and we’ve seen that grow over seven years,” Malone said after the Game 3 win. Jokic and Murray became the first duo to each record a 30-point triple-double. “A lot of guys play off each other. I think those two guys play off each other and they read each other really well.”

See also  Laverne & Shirley star Cindy Williams dies at 75

Every team but Malone and Erving, Chamberlain and West won multiple rings together. Jokic and Murray need to do the same to enter the conversation about the game’s best pairings, but they’re 28 and 26 years old, respectively. Erving was 32 years old in 1983. Chamberlain and West were in their mid-30s in 1972. The rest were in their 20s at the time of their first degrees, except for Abdul-Jabbar, a lifelong senior, and Koosi.

Regardless of how they will be remembered in the future, now is the time to give Murray his due. He was far from his peak to start the season, still on his feet as he returned from surgery, but he averaged 20.2 points (on 46/40/83 shooting splits), 5.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 32.5 minutes per game during the All-Star break. He finished 21st in fan voting among West Cards for the All-Star Game, behind Jalen Green, C.J. McCallum, behind Kevin Huerder, Lonnie Walker IV and Anfernie Simons. Give Murray’s name some respect.

When it came time to select injury replacements for this year’s All-Star Game, NBA commissioner Adam Silver named Anthony Edwards and De’Aaron Fox. Murray may not have even been under consideration.

After four months and what we’ve seen, which All-Star point guard do you take over Murray? Knowing what we know now about the rivalry, would the Nuggets — the defending champions — trade Murray for Za Morant? Kyrie Irving? Damian Lillard? Donovan Mitchell? Jury vacation? Tires Halliburton? The answer is no by all accounts, and not just because it’s seven years into Murray’s relationship with Jokic.

Curry and Luka Doncic are the only short list of point guards we can count on to do as much as Murray did on basketball’s biggest stage. Maybe Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Remember when the All-Star votes come back, because Murray’s performance ranks next to Jokic’s in all-time history.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *