It is time to move on from Emmanuel Mudiay. The seventh pick in the 2015 NBA draft has had a less than stellar start to his second year in the league. The lack of improvement from his rookie campaign is concerning. Turnovers continue to plague the young guard, and with poor shooting mechanics leading to the inability to develop a trustworthy jump shot, he is a liability for Mike Malone’s starting rotation.
In the rare moments when he is playing under control, Mudiay can be very crafty around the hoop, and therefore becomes more productive. Until then, it’s a continuous question of, “when, if even at all, will he turn the corner”?
Mudiay’s rookie season came and went, and the inexperienced Nuggets finished with a 33-49 record, which was good enough for eleventh place in the wild Western Conference. They once again found themselves with the seventh pick, and with it they selected Kentucky phenom Jamal Murray. The sharp shooting guard was on their radar throughout the draft process. I can only imagine the relief they felt once the New Orleans Pelicans selected Wooden Award winner Buddy Hield. While Hield has struggled to adjust to the pace of the NBA, Murray already has a Rookie of the Month award under his belt.
Fast forward to the now, and Murray finds himself playing off ball at the shooting guard position; however, he is multidimensional on the offensive end. In an interview with Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro of Mile High Sports, Nuggets GM Tim Connelly issued, “He is the definition of a combo guard. What you didn’t see at Kentucky – for good reason, because he played next to one of the best lead guards in the entire country, Tyler Ulis – he’s been a point guard all his life”.
That being said, here is the proposition: when the Nuggets Brass feel he is ready, move the budding star Jamal Murray to starting point guard. Move Mudiay to the back up point guard spot, then greatly decrease the amount of minutes Jameer Nelson receives. Maybe, just maybe, Mudiay will embrace a role off the bench, a situation in which the pressure and expectations will be reduced.
Currently, the Nuggets have a log jam at the SG position. Will Barton along with Gary Harris are deserving of all the minutes they receive, when healthy. That hasn’t been the case this year for Harris, as he has battled a partially torn groin muscle and most recently an injury to his right foot. Harris has only gotten better each year he has been in the league. His stout defense is something coaches salivate over. Barton, on the other hand, thrives off the bench in sort of the sixth man role (I say sort of the sixth man role due to the explosion of Wilson Chandler off the bench this season). This allows Murray to play at what some say is his natural position, and allows Harris and Barton to further their career’s in familiar roles.
Now I realize Mudiay is still just 20 years old and is in just his second NBA season, but he was drafted in the position he was for a reason. Although he was an enigma coming out of the draft -forgoing college to play professionally in China- scouts saw his potential. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but also of strange mediocrity. If you want to force yourself to believe this is just a sophomore slump, that’s fine; however, the reality is, this may in fact have been a hapless miss by Nuggets executives on the mystery man from the Congo.