By Rahul Lal
With the 2016 NBA Draft fast approaching, we’re taking a detailed look at and comparing some of the elite players expected to be drafted in the lottery in our Draft Dilemma series. These players will have a chance to be a part of the next generation of NBA stars and that legacy begins on draft day. The NBA Draft will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on June 23 at 7 p.m. ET.
Jamal Murray vs. Kris Dunn
Jamal Murray (Kentucky, Fr.) and Kris Dunn (Providence, Jr.) are considered the best point guard prospects in this year’s draft. As point guards are getting bigger, faster and stronger, these two are no exception. Murray was named a first-team All-SEC member and a third-team NCAA All-American in his lone year of college basketball. Dunn enjoyed a career that included two Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards, two Big East Player of the Year awards, two first-team All-Big East awards and was named a consensus second-team All-American in 2016.
Jamal Murray’s Measurements and Stats:
Age: 19, Height: 6’5″, Weight: 207 lbs., Vertical Reach: 8’3″, Wingspan: 6’7″
20 PTS, 5.2 REB, 2.2 AST, 1 STL, 0.3 BLK, .454 FG%, .783 FT%, .408 3P%
Kris Dunn’s Measurements and Stats:
Age: 22, Height: 6’4″, Weight 220 lbs., Vertical Reach: 8’4″, Wingspan: 6’10
16.4 PTS, 5.3 REB, 6.2 AST, 2.5 STL, 0.6 BLK, .448 FG%, .695 FT%, .372 3P%
With a jump shot as smooth as Marvin Gaye’s voice, NBA scouts and fans alike have realized that Jamal Murray is making his case as the draft’s top shooter. Murray shot the three at a 40.8 percent clip and averaged over three per game. During his workout with the Celtics, he drained 79 out of 100 threes including 25 of his last 27. Murray isn’t only a shooter – the combo guard is great when it comes to penetration and is just as efficient off the ball as he is on the ball – a trait that is invaluable in today’s NBA. He has great basketball IQ and has near-perfect passing mechanics. He uses his size to beat out other guards for long rebounds. When he goes into the NBA, he will have to work on his decision making as he can take ill-advised shots and make poor passing decisions but those can be fixed with the right coaching and experience.
On offense, Kris Dunn is something of a Swiss army knife at the point guard position. He has the size of a small two guard but the abilities to play a sort of hybrid. His transition speed and athleticism on the break is a sight to see and he is just as capable dunking the ball in the open court as he is making a great pass for the assist. Speaking of his passing ability, he has an amazing knack for making the right pass off a pick and roll set and is able to use his size and long arms to pass over and through the defense. His body control and post game is reminiscent of a young Dwyane Wade and he is able to move well enough without the ball to free himself up for open shots and slashing opportunities. He gets in trouble at times as he will go through stretches playing hero ball and either goes for the home run play with a flashy pass or big dunk. Or, he will do the exact opposite and settle for a contested jumper or Steph Curry-range three pointer. His shooting isn’t spectacular but it is good enough to pass and has improved significantly each year since he was a freshman.
Verdict: As good as Dunn is offensively, Murray is one of the best pure offensive players in this draft. His polished offensive game coupled with his feel for the game gives him the slight advantage over Kris Dunn.
Close your eyes and imagine you are back in high school. You study day after day, hour after hour for the big test and try as hard as you can, but still wind up with a poor, technically passing grade. That’s what it’s like watching Jamal Murray play defense. He is driven by his great hustle and effort as there are very few plays he gives up on but he lacks the ability to be a lock-down defender. He has a hunched stance and has difficulty turning his hips quick enough against faster point guards. This can lead to penetration off the dribble. He also gets caught on screens often leaving his man open for an uncontested shot. Murray will also need to work on not biting on fakes so easily and not gambling too much while going for the steal.
Kris Dunn, on the other hand, studies hard, gets an A and then likes to show it off in front of the class. He possesses the quickness and explosiveness to slide with smaller guards but the size to guard larger guards and some small forwards (6’4 height, 220 pounds, 6’10 wingspan). He anticipates the ball better than anyone in this year’s draft and is able to jump the gap for the steal as well as predict the ball handler’s moves and passes. Like Murray, Dunn has a tendency to gamble on defense a bit too much going for steals, which leads to his high foul rate. He is already a plus defender and can truly develop into a lock-down defender.
Verdict: This is an easy decision. Dunn takes the cake against almost any defender in this class.
NBA teams and Kentucky’s John Calipari have raved about Murray’s motor (Calipari went as far to say Murray should be drafted first overall). He’s about as tough as you can get mentally and possesses both the confidence and swagger to be the face of a franchise one day. He’s known as a gym rat, someone who basically lives in the gym and has a competitive drive that would make some of the greats feel insecure. At times he displayed a bit of a “lone wolf” mentality, which can definitely rub some teammates the wrong way. But overall, he is one of the most high character guys we will see in the league.
Dunn is no slouch when it comes to his motor. Every time you watched Dunn play in college you saw him leave everything he had on the floor. He’s considered a competitive player as well but what separates him from many others is his maturity. Dunn decided to go back to school to refine his game after being a projected top-five selection in the 2015 NBA Draft and the risk has definitely paid off. Teams will trust him to run a team as well as to be the floor general with the confidence he has.
Verdict: This category is so close I almost feel bad choosing a winner but I think Jamal Murray has that extra fire and aggression that makes a player stand out in the league and separates the starters from the stars.
Potential and NBA Readiness:
Jamal Murray is an interesting player when it comes to his potential. He’s a great shooter but you have to be concerned that he can either develop as Steph Curry did (who had similar abilities in college) or he can develop like fellow former Wildcat Brandon Knight did, which leaves him as a borderline starter in the NBA. As far as his NBA readiness, he has the mentality and shot to play in the NBA but is a bit of a tweener and may struggle right away if he’s given too big of a role.
Dunn is a great prospect. Even though he’s a few years older than Murray, he has just as much potential if not more due to his defensive abilities and the growth he’s shown year after year. His size bodes well to mature into a lock-down defender and bullying point guard. He has all-star potential. Aside from that, he has the maturity and experience to be trusted quickly, and with the right coaching, can be a starter right away in the NBA.
Verdict: I would take the safe bet of Dunn on draft day because he can play from day one and is still capable of turning into a true defensive stopper, something that is so important when you have to face a great point guard each and every night. He is also a safer bet to develop and is a low risk, high reward player.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.