(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
18-year-old Jamal Murray was the second youngest player in the Pan American Games but his age didn’t keep him from leading Canada to a silver medal at home.
No player in the tournament compared to Murray in level of talent. He is a projected lottery pick in the 2016 NBA draft, while JJ Barea was the only proven NBA contributor in the competition. Everybody else was fringe talent at best, including Anthony Bennett and Andrew Nicholson.
It was, nonetheless, impressive how the teenager performed against players far more experienced and physically developed than him, and how he established himself as a lock for the Canadian team that will play the FIBA Americas, if NCAA rules permit him to.
That came on the heels of Murray dominating against his age group in the Nike Hoop Summit, when he scored 30 points on 23 shots and dished five assists in 31 minutes, leading the World Team to a two-point victory against the United States.
Murray’s top skill at this point is his ability to get into the lane and create a shot for himself or others. He didn’t play any sort of secondary role, running side pick-and-rolls off a live dribble when the defense was already bent. Murray was relied upon to create against a set defense in the half-court and proved able to do so consistently well against that level of competition.
He doesn’t have an explosive first step but can change speed to get around defenders and turn the corner out of the pick-and-roll. Despite not playing with impressive speed, Murray has demonstrated the ability to get where he wants to go on the court – a skill expected to translate to college basketball, as shown in the Hoop Summit. He also has good handles and decent quickness going from side-to-side on the in-between area, forcing the opponent into some hesitation.
Murray has proven himself a very willing passer on the move, particularly impressive passing ahead in transition. In the half-court, he’s shown able to read rotations and how cutter and spot-up shooters can get off his drives. But he is not the sort of pure passer who anticipates passing lanes and seems to see plays develop one second ahead of everybody else, though. Murray is not allergic to passing by any means but when he is running offense, he is more likely to create a shot for himself than others.
FINISHING & SHOOTING
Murray strongly favors driving left and can finish with some explosiveness on straight line drives but doesn’t often tend to attack the basket with force. He has, however, flashed the ability to hang in the air to finish against length and through contact and a tear-drop floater when the help-defense kept him from getting to the rim. When he went right, Murray was less decisive on his drives and has trouble sustaining his momentum forward through contact at this point, often opting for step-back pull-ups.
Murray definitely proved himself a capable shooter off the bounce, even from three-point range. He is able to generate enough space to load his shot with his step-back and has a quick enough trigger to get his shot off, despite the fact he doesn’t have a particularly high point in his release.
Murray is listed at six-foot-four, the sort of height that helps him shoot over the top of smaller point guards but could give him trouble if guarded by lengthier wings, which was not the case in the Pan American Games where he was guarded mostly by point guards.
Murray’s shot looks tougher to contest on catch-and-shoot opportunities. He elevates off the ground with good balance, turns in the air and exhibits good mechanics. According to RealGM, Murray converted 11 of his 27 three-point shots in the Pan American Games and has a track record of shooting over 40 percent on such shots in the 2013 Nike Global Challenge and the 2013 FIBA Americas U16, and then an unusually lousy 28.6% performance in the 2014 World Championships U17.
Murray played defense with effort, getting on his stance and working hard to go over screens consistently. He did not show the burst of quickness necessary to navigate the pick and recover to the guard driving to make plays as a trailer, though.
Individually, Murray looked quite good in the Hoop Summit. He was able to contain dribble penetration through contact by players his own age and possesses a six-foot-seven wingspan to help him affect passing lanes and make an impact contesting shots, though this is mostly potential at this point as he hasn’t shown to be an impact player on that end just yet.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara