Scouting reports via ESPN Insider this past summer profiled Kentucky’s Jamal Murray as an immensely skilled combo guard best with the ball in his hands. The downside stemmed from a possible lack of elite quickness or explosion and his potential to become a tweener stuck between backcourt positions.

Murray — who was seventh in usage rate, second in minutes and offensive win shares, third in scoring and first in both field goal and 3-point attempts in the SEC as a freshman — struggled to find steady exposure in the first seven games of his NBA career with the Denver Nuggets. Over this stretch, Murray averaged just 17.8 minutes and shot 27.5 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from beyond the arc, this after ranking seventh in the SEC last season with a true shooting rate of 59 percent thanks to hitting a stellar 40.8 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Over the past week, however, Murray has enjoyed a massive uptick in opportunity and production, as he ranks 11th among shooting guards on ESPN’s Player Rater over the past seven days (as of Friday morning). Torrid from the field of late, Murray has averaged 21.7 points, 3.7 3-pointers made and 26.5 minutes over his past three games, all from the bench. Most encouraging is Murray’s usage rate of 25.8 percent, which signals an awesomely busy offensive role for the rookie shooter.

This production is occurring with Will Barton back from injury, so there is some promise for Murray to sustain a nice scoring clip from the bench. The likely reality is that this is a bit of an aberration and that Murray is merely hot from the field. The enduring point, in my opinion, is that Murray is proving he can create on this stage and shoot at an elite level and could eventually become a uniquely valuable specialist.

Ranked third among prospects in this past summer’s draft by ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton based on a blend of statistical and scouting information, the outcome spectrum below suggests Murray is a fine keeper commodity.

ESPN analytics projection (within his first five seasons):

  • Chances he’ll be an All-Star: 20 percent

  • Chances he’ll be a starter: 21 percent

  • Chances he’ll be a bench player: 25 percent

  • Chances he’ll be a bust: 34 percent

I’ve added Murray in several deeper leagues (of at least 12 teams) with the hope he can emerge as a shooting specialist as a rookie and eventually evolve into a valuable combo guard in similar fashion to the career arc Brandon Roy enjoyed. Owned in just 11 percent of ESPN leagues, speculating if this is the start of a breakout trend for the professional freshman costs only a roster spot at this point.

In terms of a veteran shooting specialist who shouldn’t have any problems sustaining minutes and 3-point production this season, the Los Angeles LakersNick Young is enjoying a revival to his best days with the Wizards. In fact, we can even deem Young’s impressive shooting prowess a breakout of sorts, as he entered Friday tied for sixth in the league in 3-pointers made (2.6 average) with Damian Lillard and Zach LaVine thanks to rare shooting freedom in Luke Walton’s reenergized scheme.

The Lakers have enjoyed a massive leap in pace — their 4.3 percent increase from last season ranks third highest in the league — while Los Angeles’ 7.9 percent uptick in offensive rating is by far the highest in the NBA from last year to this season. As ESPN’s Baxter Holmes recently wrote, “Only a few months ago, Young believed the Lakers would trade him, buy out his contract or cut him. He was sure the team was done with him, one way or another. Now he’s in the Lakers’ starting lineup and considered one of their best perimeter defenders and most reliable scorers.”

Young was ranked 16th on the Player Rater among shooting guards as of Friday, just ahead of the likes of Evan Fournier and Devin Booker. Available in fantasy free agency in nearly 60 percent of ESPN leagues, a heavy dose of minutes and shots on the league’s most improved offense should see Young continue to provide unexpected vale this season.


Matchup ratings are based on a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup). These are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team’s year-to-date and past 10 games’ statistics, their opponents’ numbers in those categories and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the left lists the team’s total number of games scheduled, as well as home games, and lists the overall rating from 1 to 10 for that team’s weekly schedule.


Ratings roundup

The Utah Jazz claim the lone “perfect” rating for the upcoming week of NBA action. With three of their four games at home and nearly all of them against up-tempo or defensively deficient opponents, it’s a good week to play the Jazz. Even though they play just three games, the Milwaukee Bucks enjoy a rubber match series with the Brooklyn Nets. This proves inviting given Brooklyn leads the NBA in pace and posts some of the most generous defensive and hustle stat allowances in the league. The Golden State Warriors‘ historic offensive efficiency should continue this week, as three pace-and-space opponents come to town in a valuable home stand. As for the less forgiving schedules over the next week, the Indiana Pacers, Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers are all hindered by two-game slates, which precludes streaming from these rosters and limits the upside in weekly formats. If you have heavy shares of these rosters, you’ll want to pursue streaming options from some of the well-positioned four-game schedules this week, such as the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and Jazz.

Defensive real plus-minus

The wait is over, as our index of defensive real plus-minus data has gone live. This metric gauges the estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance for individual players, measured in points allowed per 100 defensive possessions. It takes several weeks for the sample size to mature enough each season to produce data reflective of accurate production patterns. It’s no surprise to see the LA ClippersChris Paul leading all point guards and the entire league in this unique metric.

The most actionable and useful deployment of this data might just be to check out the bottom rungs of each position when seeking out position-specific streaming options or building daily fantasy lineups. For example, Brandon Knight of the Suns and Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks claim the worst DRPM ratings among point guards this season, suggesting we can target them for advantageous matchups. By perusing the positional ratings, we can gain another bit of intel for when deciphering between close calls.

Porous in the paint

The league average shooting allowance within 5 feet of the basket is 58.5 percent. The 10 teams below have allowed the highest shooting percentages in this close range around the rim. With Karl-Anthony Towns ranked last among centers in DRPM and the Lakers completely missing rim protection on the interior, it’s helpful to consider this data when streaming bigs in redraft competition and investing in frontcourt commodities in DFS.


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