In the first edition of the Canadian Roundup of the 2022-2023 NBA season, we take a look into Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's upcoming campaigns.
Patience with Jamal Murray
The most exciting storyline for Canadians in the NBA, by far, will be Jamal Murray's return to action. After being sidelined for 500+ days, Canada Basketball fans will finally be able to watch Murray on an NBA floor once again.
I do think it is important to have tempered expectations for Murray's regular season. According to head coach Michael Malone, Jamal Murray is going to start the regular season on a minutes restriction. With the Nuggets being extra cautious, I would not expect Murray to have a career year, at least not in the regular season. And given his history of slow starts to the season, I would definitely not be worried or surprised if it takes a while before Murray ramps up to the player we recognize. The focus from all parties should be on easing Murray back into rhythm and keeping him healthy for the deep playoff run the Denver Nuggets are hoping for. And as we all know, Murray turns into a whole new player when the playoffs roll around.
When we last saw Murray, he had blossomed into a dynamic offensive player. The ball-on-a-string handle, body control on off the dribble jumpers, slippery off ball movement and array of passes in his toolbox were all indicators of Murray's mastery on the offensive end. In fact, he had become quite good at manipulating and bending defenses to his liking, and then exploiting the opponent's defensive mistakes by scoring or finding an open teammate. One of my favourite sequences from Jamal Murray's bubble performance was this assist to Millsap. He occupies all 5 Lakers defenders at various points on the play, goes through several reads, throws in a couple fakes for good measure all before dumping it off for the uncontested dunk.
I will be most interested in monitoring how the ACL injury in his left knee has affected Murray's movement, burst and explosiveness, if it has at all. I'm not a kinesiologist or an expert in sports science so I don't really know what to expect but it will be something to watch. Pre torn ACL, Murray was pretty comfortable exploding off of either leg when it came to step backs and side step jumpers. This step back from the bubble was pretty violent and abrupt as he slams his left foot into the ground to explode backwards.
That same explosiveness on step backs also came in handy for Murray's burst. Flowing from the pause of a hesitation to the explosive drive is pretty spectacular, especially when he's able to beat Kawhi Leonard in a foot race to the rim
When you slow the move down, you can really see how incredible that previous play was from Murray. On the hesitation, Murray drops his left foot back and lifts his right in an exaggerated motion. Once he plants the left foot on the ground, he is going to explode towards the rim. Interestingly when he goes to explode, his right foot is completely off the ground! All of Murray's body weight was on the ball of his left foot when he explodes. Just incredible burst in his left leg as a whole system.