As the clock was winding down in the game between the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors, Jamal Murray hurt his left knee. The injury, which was later on was revealed to be a torn ACL, will keep him out indefinitely, causing big problems for the Nuggets. Considered one of the hottest teams following the trade deadline, the Nuggets have to continue the season with their main point guard sidelined.
Murray, who was out for four games due to soreness in his right knee, had been playing his best season with averages of 21 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists prior to the injury. The young superstar was a vital piece in Denver’s loaded starting lineup, so his injury will surely poke a hole in their already established first five.
While backup point guard, Facundo Campazzo, has been excellent for the Nuggets, their different approaches to the game will shake up how Denver plays.
Murray is known for being lethal when he gets hot. On his off days, fans can expect a less than 20 average, a couple of assists, and maybe a few rebounds. But when he’s feeling good? Murray can spew out 40-point games, which he has already done three times in the last five seasons. His ability to make plays for himself makes him a rising elite scorer.
Not only that, Murray can pass the ball -- and he can do it really well. In the last three seasons, he has been averaging 4.8 assists which is likely for a team like the Nuggets, who rely on a lot of movement off the ball, so racking up assists are easy if you know how to find the open man.
Campazzo does an excellent job at playmaking. In fact, he’s had several games already where he tallied more assists than points. He understands his role and has successfully familiarized himself with his teammates, making him the perfect back-up point guard to Murray.
However, Campazzo is not someone who can make consistent buckets. In fact, he only averages 4.1 attempts in the field per game. Their differences means someone has to make more shots to boost the Nuggets on offense. Someone needs to fill in the Murray’s shoes fast.
Denver’s top choice as a Murray substitute could be Michael Porter Jr. The rising star has been having quite a year with averages of 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. He is extremely reliable offensively, shooting 52.4 percent from the field. His defense, though, is a little spotty. Because MPJ is a liability on the defensive end, his minutes are often cut short when he starts missing some buckets.
However, with Murray out indefinitely, they may need that spark to fill in the gaps offensively, making this the perfect opportunity for MPJ to step up. Or they can use more of Will Barton.
In the last 10 games, Barton boosted his efficiency from the field, bumping his field-goal percentage up to 41.9. Although he’s averaging only 13.2 points, Murray’s absence will surely force Barton to take and make more shots.
His consistency can surely be improved, but there’s no denying his talent when he heats up. While he’s not going to produce numbers the same way Murray does, anything from Barton will surely help the Nuggets’ cause.
Unfortunately, Murray’s ACL may be the one thing that paralyzes this team, which is favored to make a return trip to the Western Conference Finals.
Denver has shown that they can still succeed without Murray, winning three out of the four games he missed. And while Nikola Jokic will undoubtedly perform at the highest level every night, if the team wants to continue elevating this season, everyone needs to step up in Murray’s absence.