There is no doubt that Nikola Jokic was the star of the show for the Denver Nuggets last season. The Serbian national produced a gem of a campaign, which allowed him to enter the MVP conversation, albeit in a limited capacity. Nevertheless, 6-foot-4 guard Jamal Murray also had his part to play in Denver's success last year, with the 22-year-old emerging as one of the most promising young guards in the league entering the 2019-20 NBA season.
This coming season, much is expected of the Nuggets yet again, and despite all the craziness that went down in an historic offseason in the NBA, Denver are still one of the favorites to claim a high seed in the Western Conference once the playoffs come.
Jokic will likely pick up where he left off, and the same can be said for Murray. However, there are some who would say that the development of Murray will have a more significant effect on how the Nuggets will fare next season. Jokic has already established himself as a top-tier big man in the league, and for his part, Murray will need to prove that he can step up as the Robin to Jokic's Batman.
Below, we present three season-long goals that Murray will need to achieve in order for the Nuggets to lay claim of their own legitimate dynamic duo.
Last season, Murray established himself as one of the best scoring guards in the league by averaging a career-high 18.2 points and 2.0 three-pointers per contest. More of the same will be expected of Murray this season, and in order for the Nuggets to remain as a relevant threat to the title this year, he will likely need to score closer to 20 points per game this season.
This isn't going to be too difficult for Murray, who actually upped his scoring to 21.3 points in the playoffs. There is no doubt that Nuggets head coach Michael Malone will look to involve Murray in the offense even more, so the opportunities will definitely be there for the talented combo guard.
Murray should also look to improve on his efficiency. His increased shooting volume led to a dip in his field goal percentage last season (he went down to 43.7 from 45.1 percent the previous season), so this time around, shot selection will be a very important aspect of his game.
Much like his scoring, Murray also improved on his passing last term, dishing out a career-high 4.8 assists per contest. He is projected to slightly increase his assist rate this coming season, so anywhere beyond the 5-assist mark per ballgame should be a good objective for the Canadian national.
Opposing defenses will definitely clamp down on Murray more this season, so he will need to produce more creative ways to find the open man on offense. Let's not forget that coach Malone gives Murray with a lot of minutes on the one spot, so his playmaking will definitely be key.
Denver's pick-and-roll was one of it's bread and butter last season, and an even better partnership between Murray and Jokic in this respect should cause a lot of problems for their opponents.
There's no denying that defense is not one of Murray's strong suits. He is not exactly a reliable option on the defensive end, and some might even say that it is actually quite the opposite.
Nonetheless, Murray averaged 0.9 swipes last season, so he obviously has a knack for stealing the ball. This should be a good foundation to build upon for Murray, but he will need to put in a lot of work to ensure that his defense improves this campaign. We're definitely not expecting him to be an outstanding two-way guard overnight, but if he is able to provide some decent defense this year, then this should be seen as a vast improvement for Murray.
All in all, big things are expected from Murray next term. As mentioned previously, his further development will have a tremendous impact on how deep a run Denver will be able to make this coming season.
It is also worth noting that he will be entering the final year of his rookie-scale deal this campaign, so this adds even more pressure on his broad shoulders. It is yet to be seen if Murray can be considered as a max contract type of guy, but the good new for him is that he will have the entirety of next season to prove his worth. It's going to be a pretty dry offseason next summer — especially compared to how talent-packed this year's class was — so if everything falls into place for him, Murray might just be in for quite a hefty payday.