NBA: Revisiting the 2019 rookie-scale max extensions

Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons defends (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons defends (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /
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NBA Denver Nuggets Jamal Murray (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

NBA rookie-max extension: Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray’s extension wasn’t the shocking part, but rather the “max” part of it, even to Denver Nuggets fans. Since coming into the league, he’s flashed high-end scoring potential, but hadn’t really developed as much as a passer or defender yet. Though, watching the 2019 playoffs, it was very clear how much the Nuggets offense leaned on Jamal Murray as the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations, developing great chemistry with Nikola Jokic.

At first glance, it appears that Jamal Murray isn’t a max level player, and perhaps they signed him to the deal because Denver is less likely than other teams to attract high-end free agents as a small market team. It is also, however, possible that General Manager (at the time) Arturas Karnisovas, and President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly signed him for what he could become, rather than what he is.

Jamal’s slash line was virtually identical from this season to last season (18.2/ 4.8/ 4.2 last year, and 18.8/ 4.8/ 3.9 this season). This could present a problem if he was extended based on his potential. It is noteworthy, though, that despite the assist numbers unwavering, Jamal’s passing does seem to have improved based on the film.

His defense has improved as well, and that’s something that the numbers support. Widely considered a negative defender, in 2019, Jamal posted a Defensive PIPM of -0.91. This season, he improved that mark to around neutral, posting 0.01. His True Shooting percentage also took a small leap from a below-average 53.8 percent to an improved rate of 55.9 percent.

Murray has improved in peripheral areas, but probably isn’t a max contract player at this point in time. If he remains a defensive neutral, Jamal Murray needs to become a legitimate second offensive option for Nikola Jokic. Either his passing needs to drastically improve, or he needs to bump his scoring by a bit. This last option seems like a much more viable option for Jamal, as he can certainly improve on his shot selection. Otherwise, the verdict is still out on the deservingness of his rookie-scale max extension.