Could Jamal Murray Be Better Than Andrew Wiggins?


Andrew Wiggins was the first, but Jamal Murray could be the best.

Let’s rewind the clock, the hype train that followed Andrew Wiggins started as far back as his tenth and eleventh grades, and what wasn’t there to love?

At six-foot-eight, he was already a an NBA sized wing player while he was still in high school, and could fill up a highlight tape with massive dunks and lockdown defence that made scouts drool.

It could be too early to say, but Jamal Murray is already looking like, at the college level, even better than Wiggins was.

But Murray is no stranger to unsuspectingly taking the spotlight for himself with his play.

While all the hype and attention was on his Orangeville Prep teammate, seven-foot-one center Thon Maker, during the Nike World Hoop Summit and the BioSteel All-Canadian game, Murray walked away with MVP honours in both games.

He was only the third player in the Hoop Summit’s 18 year history to score 30+ points. The other two? Nicolas Batum and some guy named Kevin Durant.

During the first annual BioSteel All-Canadian Game, Murray had 29 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, stealing the show with a number of mesmerizing end-to-end layups and fast break assists.

Maker underachieved, failing to score ten points or grab ten rebounds in either game.

Maker bounced back and is once again one of the top recruits of his class, but the damage was done, Murray had put his name on the map of college scouts all over the NCAA.

Following both of those performances, Steve Nash himself thought that the 18-year-old Murray was already NBA ready.

Wiggins had a respectable 17 points during his Hoop Summit back in 2013, but by that point he had already been touted as a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

More from Toronto Sports

Much like Wiggins, every time Murray has stepped on the court, he has looked miles ahead of his counter parts in not only his physical stature, but most notably on the mental side of his game.

So at 18, who is better?

Few guards Murray’s size move as quickly as him with the ball, and even fewer have had the ability to set up teammates.

His body also seems a little more developed than Wiggins’. Despite giving up three inches in height, Murray is the exact same weight as Wiggins was, 200 pounds, when he was 18.

But we can’t crown Murray just yet, note where Wiggins plays on the floor, where he is consistently going head-to-head with bigger and stronger players at the small forward and shooting guard positions, as opposed to the smaller point guards Murray usually goes up against.

With hindsight, you could see how Wiggins was constantly going up against the best defender on each team every night his whole high school and college career, while Murray might have gained a slight advantage of facing smaller point guards he could physically dominate.

It might also be why Wiggins developed such an unselfish game in such a position that demands occasional selfishness.

It is a style that Murray has shown he can emulate from his older counterpart, but by no means does he settle to pass as often as Wiggins did at his age.

If Murray sees a weak matchup on him, he has been cerebral in exposing it, even criticizing Team USA guards at the Pan Am Games “for giving him that shot”.

That shot, was one of two in overtime that propelled Canada over the USA to the gold medal game in the Pan Ams, where they eventually finished with silver.

Jumping back to the present, Murray has continued the momentum he has gained all throughout 2015 into a 16 point, five assist, five rebound performance in a 74-63 win over No. 5 Duke at the annual Champions Classic in Chicago this past week.

Meanwhile, Wiggins is enjoying his reign as 2015 NBA Rookie of the year by averaging 21.5 points per game this season, and might even be looking at a potential spot on the Western Conference roster during the all-star game this year, coincidentally being held in Toronto.

But why are two players that are so similar in demeanor and talent, given such different levels of press from the basketball world?

Wiggins never had a chance to represent Canada for the Pan Ams when he was 18, but he already had major national american exposure from playing for a powerhouse like Huntington Prep in Virginia, that already had a storied history of producing NBA talent.

Jan 31, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) is guarded by Cleveland Cavaliers forward

LeBron James

(23) during the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In short, he never had to truly snap during any of these big high school all-star games, everyone already knew who he was.

Murray on the other hand, never played a single game during his high school career in an american uniform, and forgive my Canadian inferiority complex, but to deny that stigma is just delusional, especially in the basketball world.

Instead, Murray opted to play for the upstart Athlete Institute long before they ever landed the Maker brothers and Jalen Poyser, acquisitions that put the organization as a whole on the forefront of the American high school prep circuit.

Even with the revamped roster last year, Athlete Institute’s Orangeville Prep still lacked the media “pop” that Huntington Prep brought for Wiggins.

Such a situation would understandably light a fire under a kid like Murray, who, despite the considerable exposure, still felt like he had something to prove.

It begs the question, if Murray is arguably on the same level as Wiggins entering his one and done year for Kentucky (who are we kidding), why is he only getting so much love now, even though he has been making history all of 2015?

It could be simply because we, the basketball fans of this country, expect that much of our basketball players coming out of Canada nowadays.

How the higher-ups across this nation learn to deal with this talent will determine if this is the future of basketball in Canada, or if we are just spoiled as fans going through a golden age.

Next: Thon Maker Cuts his List of Schools to Six

Either way, at this point in time our kids are just that good, and that’s a great thing.