Why haven’t the Nuggets and Jamal Murray signed an extension?

Jul 9, 2024, 1:22 PM

There’s been some mixed reporting around the Denver Nuggets’ possible extension of star guard Jamal Murray, and it’s raising a few red flags.

Murray’s five-year $158 million rookie contract extension is up at the end of the 2024-25 season. He’s coming off an up-and-down season in 2023-24. On the year, Murray averaged career highs in points per game (21.2,) assists per game (6.5,) and shooting (48.1%) but his injuries really hampered the team and he failed to get the All-Star nod he has sought for years.

The first chatter of an extension took place on NBA Draft night back at the end of June when Shams Charania reported that the Nuggets would offer the Blue Arrow a four-year, $209 million maximum deal with the expectation that both sides would agree. Given Murray is currently playing for Team Canada and has a history of leg injuries—one would assume that both Denver would want to lock in Jamal to the deal to get it done and that the player would want the safety of taking the money before taking the risk of playing for his country ahead of a contract year—especially since the money would be the exact same in June as it would be later in this offseason.

Actually, there’s only one way that the Nuggets could increase the offer to Murray from the $209 million max extension currently on the table. That would require the Blue Arrow to play out the season and qualify for the Supermax by achieving an All-NBA nod. While that’s still on the table and we’ll get back to it, multiple reports were published on Monday stating that Murray and Denver are now expected to sign the extension in August after the Olympics. But those reports only surfaced after another outlet that covers the Nuggets, Mile High Sports, reported that the story could blow up and become bigger and that Denver may be protecting themselves with stipulations.

So what is going on in the media with the mixed reports and more importantly what’s going on with the Nuggets extension talks for Murray? Here’s a couple of scenarios as to what could be going down.


1. Injury concerns

Some of Murray’s history with leg injuries is well known, with him missing two prime Jokic years playoff runs while down with an ACL tear. But before he suffered that brutal injury, he had already been fighting leg injuries that season. While he stayed clean during his comeback year and Denver won the title, last season during the repeat bid he went down with a leg injury in November and then never truly regained form. He battled leg injuries late in the season and was clearly suffering in the playoffs. There’s a possibility the Nuggets are so concerned about future injuries that how things have been reported doesn’t paint the full picture. There are two scenarios regarding injuries that could be hanging up the deal.

A. The deal hasn’t actually been offered yet

The Nuggets were heavily rumored to be bringing in Dario Saric in free agency and it was a foregone conclusion that they would re-sign Vlatko Cancar. Yet neither of those deals was inked until after both were done with the Olympic Qualifying Tournament and the two went into summer break mode. Given that Cancar suffered an ACL tear last summer playing for his country, the Nuggets may have been concerned about committing money and roster spots to players who could’ve gone down playing at a high level. Maybe they waited until both were in the clear before locking down that commitment. Similarly, and given the recent reports of an August expectation, there could be an understanding that the deal will be presented and signed after the Olympics—just to ensure the Nuggets aren’t committing $209 million to an injured player. That would be a bit tough to swallow on Murray’s end but that’s just one of the risks of getting the honor to play for your country.

B. Stipulations and guarantees

The $209 million might not be $209 million guaranteed or it could carry some pretty noteworthy stipulations. This was also pointed out by Ryan Blackburn. There are several mechanisms the Nuggets could use to protect the club—ranging from only partially guaranteeing the final year and turning it into a de facto team option all the way to language similar to that in Zion Williamson’s contract. Zion needs to reach certain fitness and weight requirements for money to become guaranteed. This tracks with some of Calvin Booth’s primary complaints about Murray after the season. “When Jamal is in shape and in condition he’s a different beast… he wore down a bit at the end of the playoffs… with the ACL and soft tissue injuries he had… it’s something to investigate moving forward.” Meanwhile, Murray would likely have a right to be upset about some of this stuff being in the contract given he earned Denver a title and fought through injuries in the follow-up to stay on the court. So there could’ve been an offer on the table in June that carried some of this language which Murray rejected and the guard is focusing on the Olympics to see if Denver changes some of the clauses.


2. SuperMax

Murray quite clearly wanted to earn supermax eligibility last season—focusing on trying to hit the 65-game minimum to qualify for an All-NBA team. But those hopes were dashed by injury. The reason why Murray would maybe play out a contract year in the hope of earning an honor he’s never gotten is because a supermax could carry an additional $100 million over the life of the contract. Let’s say Murray has an awesome Olympics and proves to be the engine for Canada, out-doing MVP candidate and fellow guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander—would Murray feel more confident in earning an All-NBA honor to the point of playing out the season? Additionally, how rough would it be for the Nuggets if all season they have it hanging over their heads that their star guard could walk at season’s end—even if the intention is for him to return? A lot can change in just a few months and the pressure and anxiety of the lack of long-term commitment could be detrimental to the locker room. So it’s not just the Nuggets holding leverage here, Murray has a lot as well.


3. Pressure

Now this will be a pretty doomer paragraph but if we’re just laying out scenarios it’s worth peaking back at team history under the same ownership group. The Nuggets may be just applying pressure on Murray to eventually move on from him so that the team won’t look like the bad guy. This was pointed out by DenverSports’ James Merilatt on Monday, in terms of the company line and shifting narratives that go on within the NBA media circles. If the Nuggets wanted to trade and/or walk away from Murray for whatever reason they could now say, ‘We offered him $200 million and he didn’t accept it.’ That narrative is now already out there, but is it true? Most of the reporting about the offer of the contract to Murray seems to be coming from the team’s camp. Murray’s camp has been pretty quiet about this whole ordeal. The Nuggets have owned the story and timeline to this point and it could be an elaborate game to set the team up for a massive shakeup in the coming year. Do I think this is what’s happening? No, but I’m just presenting scenarios.


The truth, as always, is probably somewhere in between all of this. Based on my digging, that’s what seems to be true. On top of that, from what I hear, both the Nuggets and Murray earnestly want to extend their relationship. Murray has proven to be a perfect partner for Nikola Jokic and it’s highly unlikely that the Nuggets could find somebody to reach the highs that the Blue Arrow does. Similarly, while Murray might be able to experience some stronger stats on another roster, it’s highly unlikely he can find a team with title ambitions where he’ll co-star.


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