UPDATE: April 13, 11:04 a.m. — Murray has been diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported early Tuesday morning. This is horrible news for one of the top young guards in the NBA. We wish Murray a speedy recovery. Below, you’ll be able to find some analysis on how to handle Murray being out the rest of the season. It’s a big blow to the Nuggets’ championship chances.
Denver Nuggets G Jamal Murray was driving to the basket late in Monday’s 116-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors. The shot was contested at the rim by two Warriors players before Murray went to the ground in pain, holding his knee. The Nuggets guard had just returned from four straight games on the sidelines due to the knee injury. Murray stayed down in pain before being helped to the locker room. Here’s a video from last night.
Jamal Murray was helped off the court after an apparent knee injury with 50 seconds left against the Warriors. pic.twitter.com/sz7akzOiq4— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 13, 2021
Since the game was on the West Coast, this happened very late in the evening. Murray left the game and the Nuggets had been rushing to get MRI results, which we are still waiting for as of now. There’s no update on Murray’s status but from the looks of the injury, it can’t be good. While the game was somewhat close late in the fourth, you can’t help but think of the Derrick Rose injury in the 2012 first round. Plus, the Nuggets knew Murray was coming back from a knee injury and still stretched him out. Anyway, we hope the young budding star is OK and this isn’t what everyone thinks it is.
So while we don’t know if Murray will be sidelined the rest of the season, we can still speculate a bit. The Nuggets are +1600 to win it all on DraftKings Sportsbook this season as of now. At 16/1, Denver is behind the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz in the Western Conference. The Nuggets are currently 8/1 to win the West and reach the NBA Finals. If Murray is ruled out the rest of the season, you can almost certainly kiss those chances goodbye if you’re the Nuggets. Sure, Denver has depth but it would be a lot for Nikola Jokic to carry the team to the Finals.
Another important question is does this hurt Jokic’s MVP case? He’s the heavy favorite at -225 on DKSB. If the Nuggets lose Murray for the rest of the season, that’s 18 games the team won’t have 21.2 points per game, 4.8 assists, a 40.8 percent 3-point shooter. The flip side is, those 18 games are very soft. Ten of the 18 games are against soft opponents, and there’s really only one tough stretch toward the end of the season against the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Jazz and Brooklyn Nets.
So one would think the Nuggets can withstand the injury to Murray if it is serious and still finish in the top 4 in the West. If that’s the case, it will be hard to make a dent in the armor of the argument for Jokic to win MVP pretty easily. If anything, Jokic will need to step up and show he’s MVP without Murray on the court.
As far as fantasy basketball, Michael Porter Jr. is the clear beneficiary. With Murray sidelined the four games — and even prior to that — Porter had stepped up big on offense. He averaged north of 20 points per game in March and is at 21.6 points and 9 rebounds per contest in April. He’s also shooting 53.5 percent from the floor and 90 percent from the stripe. If Porter can just limit the amount of 3-point attempts and focus more on mid-range and getting to the basket, he’d be improving his efficiency.
Other than MPJ, Aaron Gordon, Monte Morris, Will Barton and Facundo Campazzo are all players who will need to step up if Murray is out long-term. Morris and Barton have a chance to be that third scoring option. It also could be Gordon, but he’s focused more on defense and making sound plays, not getting his on offense. MPJ and Jokic will carry most of the scoring. My guess is Barton gets more aggressive on the offensive end. Campazzo may end up starting at PG, but wouldn’t play the bulk of the minutes depending on rotations from coach Mike Malone.