Denver Nuggets: Breaking down the recent Jamal Murray decision

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

The Denver Nuggets reportedly refused to include Jamal Murray in any Anthony Davis trade discussions. What can fans make of this?

Early in the offseason, the Denver Nuggets are already showing commitment to their core, declining to include Jamal Murray in Anthony Davis trade talks, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

A less disciplined team would have fallen head over heels for a shot at AD. After all, a Nikola Jokic-Davis pairing would be swell. But the Nuggets brass, led by heady president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, showed remarkable judgement in steering clear as the demands became too high.

Anthony Davis has undeniable talent. He also has a distasteful backdoor network, LeBron James‘ manipulative tactics in his corner and the power of high-profile agent Rich Paul. Plus, he’s expected to leave most squads at the end of 2019-20…and the New Orleans Pelicans wanted Murray? In the great words of Ava Max, “Run, don’t walk away.”

Even without Murray in the mix, Denver should’ve wanted no part of this mess. The first attempt between the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans resulted in two executive front office departures, a ruined season for both squads, and a boatload of crabby teammates. So why run it back with this clown show?

Incredibly, the two teams patched old wounds and rattled off a deal containing enough moving parts to send their paper-pushers into a tizzy. The Nuggets wound up on the outside, retaining their core and flashing Jamal Murray an open display of loyalty.

Now keep in mind Murray has yet to be fully recognized by much of the league. However, most Denver fans like the idea of keeping him long-term. Why?

For starters, Murray gets buckets, and not just in the regular season. He averaged 23.6 points per game in the Portland Trail Blazers series, establishing himself as Nikola Jokic’s undisputed wingman on offensive. He scored 34 points apiece in Games 3 and 4, outplaying Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum at times.

In the first round, Murray reached 23 points or better four times. He hit multiple clutch spurts, including a 21-point fourth quarter to save Denver in Game 2. He also splashed a huge runner with 36 seconds remaining in Game 7, extending the Nuggets’ lead to four and essentially sealing the game.

During the postseason, Denver’s offense shifted from its previous cutting style to a more traditional pick-and-roll between Murray and Jokic. This worked nicely, as the Nuggets finished second among all playoff teams with a 113.3 offensive rating in the postseason.

Even in the regular season, Murray averaged a career-high 18.2 points per game, ironing out his trademark inconsistency. He failed to reach double-figure scoring just eight times, as opposed to 18 such occurrences in 2017-18.

Murray showed his true value when teammates were out with injuries. The Nuggets were snake-bitten in December, down three starters for a nine-game stretch. The remaining duo of Murray and Jokic was expected only to stabilize an inevitable slide from atop the Western Conference.

Instead, Murray averaged 20.4 points and 4.8 assists per game throughout this stretch, as Denver churned out a 6-3 record. Most impressively, however, the Nuggets lost not an inch in the standings, keeping their half-game lead safe for Paul Millsap‘s return. It was then that Jokic and Murray proved themselves as an all-conference force, even when unaccompanied.

Throughout his three-year stint, Murray has quickly become an adored Mile High figurehead. He boasts a sense of pride, toughness and showmanship — qualities Nuggets fans haven’t seen since Allen Iverson.

Whether it’s pissing off the entire Lakers organization or gunning for 50 in Kyrie Irving‘s grill, Murray is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone. His grit has spread throughout the organization, evidenced by Denver’s never-say-die mentality in the playoffs.

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Overall, Jamal Murray is a key piece to this Nuggets franchise. Look for them to retain him one way or the other, as he’s a restricted free agent in 2020. As for keeping him out of Anthony Davis talks? This shows just how highly Denver thinks of him, and speaks volumes about future negotiations between the parties.