Evaluating Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy

June 4, 2019

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch Minnesota’s 6-8 junior forward, Amir Coffey, as he is an early entrant in the 2019 NBA Draft, as well as his teammate, 6-6 senior forward, Jordan Murphy.  Coffey was recently invited to the G-League Elite Camp, and he has decided to keep his name in the draft.  To assess his skills, I took the opportunity to watch him play in a January 22nd basketball game against Michigan, with thanks to YouTube via Sports Arena.  Here are my thoughts on how he and Murphy fared that day, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Amir Coffey is an athletic point forward that excels at attacking the basket to generate offense for his team.  He also has the physical tools to develop into a plus level defender, but he will need to work on his jump shot in the meantime.  Coffey possesses an adequate ability to garner scores off of drives as well as in transition.  He tends to favor going to his left, though he can score using either hand, and he has good speed and hands to catch long passes out on the break.  He also can score on tough layups in traffic, as well as on turnaround jumpers.  He has an adequate first step that can enable him to get to the rim, but sometimes he can struggle to get by his man as he may overtly try to force the issue, which can lead him to miss on contested runners and layups.

However, he struggled to knock down jumpers from beyond the paint area.  Coffey attempted to pull up from beyond the arc, but he missed completely as he threw up an air-ball on his first three-point shot, and then he ran off of a screen to miss on a quick three-pointer another time.  He missed short on both occasions from long distance, as he would tend to not follow through on his jumpers, which would also sometimes cause him to miss his free throws.  He also tried to post up once, but he missed on a left-handed, turnaround jump hook midway through this contest.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills in this game.  Coffey is a talented point forward that can pass and handle the basketball, and he also can throw long passes to find teammates on the move to set up scoring chances for them.  He can push the ball quickly up the floor, and he has the court vision to continually throw passes off the dribble to find the open man.  However, he can also sometimes tend to be a ball stopper when in the half court, and he also can be turnover prone.  He can be inaccurate with his passes, and he can struggle to protect the ball, as he also had a ball taken away when trying to drive to the hoop once.  On one turnover, he used a pump fake, dribbled around, and he then posted up before throwing an inaccurate pass that ended up getting intercepted.

He also was able to get his fair share of boards to help his team on the glass.  Coffey ran in to get an offensive board early on due to making a nice hustle play that time, and he also would leap up to get defensive rebounds, as he would sometimes bring the ball up the floor afterwards to create early offense or transition scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

On the other hand, Coffey will need to be a more focused defender on a consistent basis.  For the positives, he is an active help defender that has some defensive potential as a weak side roamer.  Coffey has good athleticism, timing, and instincts to swat and alter shots to help his team protect the paint.  He was able to stay with his man when defending a drive in transition before blocking the shot to a teammate to force a miss.  Another time, he made a solid rotation from the blind side to alter a shot off of a roll to force a miss.  He will use his length and athleticism to contest shots, and he also was able to successfully challenge a turnaround jumper from the high post to get another stop for his team.

However, he can tend to have lapses defensively, and sometimes he may not always have his motor running on high on this end of the floor.  He can tend to be caught ball watching, which can lead him to trail on cuts or to out of position when defending opponents off the dribble to give up baskets to his opponents.  Other times, he may not always hustle back on defense, which can lead his team to allowing scores in transition.  He also had his hands down when defending an interior pass to a cutter that led to an inside score.

In general, Amir Coffey is a player that could project to be a solid role player in the NBA over time, but he will need to refine his skills on both ends of the floor first to realize that goal.  He will need to work on his jump shot to improve his ability to space the floor, and he will have to improve his ability to make quicker decisions and be a more focused and disciplined defender in games.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round prospect for the upcoming draft, but if he finds a way to succeed in the NBA, he could perhaps end up being a Marquis Daniels type of player in the association.

This game also presented another chance to watch Minnesota’s 6-6 senior forward, Jordan Murphy play.  He’s been a very productive player in college, but there’s a concern that his skill set may not translate very well to the NBA.  Specifically, he’s basically an undersized big man in a wing player’s body, and while he plays with a great motor and energy, he may lack the perimeter skills to adjust to the NBA game right now.

Murphy is a high-motor player that will barrel his way to the hoop to garner plenty of scores, as he possesses an adequate ability to score off the dribble as well as in the post to get points in the paint.  He plays with a whirlwind sort of style, as he will play as hard as he can to get numerous scores and free throws in traffic.  He will use a jab step and some dribble moves prior to going hard to the basket, as he will score on an assortment of runners and leaners, and he also can draw a plethora of fouls on his opponents, but sometimes he will go in too aggressively and out of control, which can lead to misses and turnovers on offense.

He also would look to score on hustle plays.  He would often crash the glass to get offensive rebounds to score on put backs, and he also managed to score on a strong put back dunk early in this game.  He also was able to get the ball on a cut, as he used a pump fake to score on a layup around the basket, but sometimes Murphy will fly in too wildly to get offensive rebounds, which can lead him to miss tip shots, as he doesn’t always gather himself and he can miss awkwardly in traffic.

Murphy also didn’t look to take jumpers outside of the paint area, so that will definitely need to be something he will have to work on in order to improve his odds to make it to or succeed at the next level.  He also was quite turnover prone in this game.  Sometimes, he would try to do too much when looking to create off the dribble, as he committed a traveling violation on a left-handed drive once, and he also was called for a push off when barreling in on another drive another time.  Murphy also can sometimes struggle to protect the basketball, and he also was called for setting a moving screen early on in this match.  For the positives, he will sometimes look to find the open man, and he can throw sharp interior passes, as he can occasionally find a cutter from the high post to set up scoring chances for them.

Murphy did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball.  He possesses a very good motor as well as above average athletic gifts, which would often enable him to leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor.  But there was one play where he wasn’t in a position to block out, which led his team to allow a put back score.  Defensively, he looked to be about average.  For the positives, he has adequate footwork and he will actively contest shots to force misses.  Murphy will go quickly around screens, and he closes out hard to get opponents to miss on three-point shots.  He also managed to rotate to force an opponent to miss on a drive to the hoop.  Plus, he also managed to find a loose ball to help get his team a steal very early in this game.

However, he can struggle to defend on screens as he may not always communicate to his teammates on where to go on those plays, which can cause him to commit fouls and allow open baskets at the rim.  He also has a tendency to commit touch fouls by being too aggressive to contest shots at times.  On a separate play, he rotated to cover for a blown teammate on a roll to the rim, but he didn’t contest the mid-range shot, which allowed his man to score that time.

In summary, Jordan Murphy is an energetic combo forward that will need to make adjustments to improve his odds to succeed as a role player in the NBA.  He doesn’t really shoot the ball well, and he can be too undisciplined at times on both ends of the floor.  He will need to improve his jump shot significantly and extend his range to beyond the arc, and he also will need to be a more consistent defender in games.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft.  In a favorable scenario, he could perhaps develop into a defensive specialist at the next level, and if he is able to add a jump shot to his game, he could end up being a similar player to Anthony Tolliver in the association.

Other Notes:

I had already scouted Brazdeikis, Matthews, and Jordan Poole plenty of times before, so I wasn’t looking to actively watch them in this particular game.  Even still, Brazdeikis and Matthews continued to make some solid plays to help their team get a narrow win over their conference opponent.  Neither Ignas Brazdeikis or Charles Matthews shot the ball particularly well in this game, but Brazdeikis had a solid second half after struggling early on.  He showed off solid range by making threes and he also would get scores and free throws on strong drives to the hoop.  Brazdeikis’ ability to make shots in a variety of ways and basketball IQ could make him a good fit for today’s NBA, as he could end up being a solid role player at the next level.

Charles Matthews was able to get an offensive rebound off of a tap out on the final play of the game, and he drove in to score on a clutch, baseline pull-up mid-range jumper to get his team the go-ahead basket and the win over Minnesota.  He also defended very well, as he would usually be in good position to contest shots to force plenty of misses.  Matthews will still need to improve his jump shot, but he is a solid athlete that defends well, and he could project to be a solid role player in the NBA as well.  Even in a down game for them, Brazdeikis and Matthews were able to make solid plays down the stretch, and they appeared to be the best prospects among all players that played in this game between Michigan and Minnesota.

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