There is no question that the Denver Nuggets have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. The plethora of talent (especially young talent) is both a blessing and a curse. The Nuggets can conceivably go 11-12 players deep if they absolutely needed to. Of course this is unrealistic due to the amount of minutes in an NBA game, but the fact remains the same. Even extremely successful teams would love to have some of the depth that Denver enjoys. Have you looked at who the defending NBA Champion Cavaliers trot out on the court every night (I’m looking at you Kay Felder and Jordan McRae) with former Nugget J.R. Smith hurt? With that said, the Nuggets have some decisions to make about their immediate future with all of the assets and talent they have. One of the most polarizing talents on the team, Emmanuel Mudiay, has shown flashes of potential greatness at times, but even the most defiant of Mudiay supporters has to admit he has some really bad stretches as well. This begs the question, is it time to move on from Emmanuel Mudiay?
Let’s try and be objective here and look at it from both perspectives. As aforementioned, the Denver Nuggets do have a lot of young talent on their roster. The issue with the Nuggets currently is that they don’t have the star power to propel them to the next level. We’ll start out by taking a deeper look into Mudiay and seeing whether or not the Nuggets should be patient with their starting PG or try and flip him (plus other assets) for a star. You could argue that Mudiay isn’t developing fast enough or that Jamal Murray is better suited to run the point with his shooting abilities. It’s easy to look at the development of Nikola Jokic and assume that Mudiay (or any other player for that matter) should have the same upward trajectory. We’ve had about a season and a half of Mudiay as our starting PG and there hasn’t been enough improvement to make us believe he is the PG of the future. He’s been inconsistent at best and with our roster having so much talent it could be time to give other players the same opportunity he had? I mean, come on, have you seen the games Jamal Murray has been on fire and the “arrow counter” needed to be used?
Pump the brakes – let’s give him some more time.
Don’t get me wrong, Mudiay’s play at times has certainly been frustrating throughout his brief tenure as a Nugget. It’s easy to point out his faults and cringe at each turnover, but let’s be clear, he’s 20 years old. Yes, his development isn’t at the same pace as someone like Nikola Jokic but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some progression. Mudiay finished the 2015-2016 NBA season averaging 12.8 pts / 5.5 ast / 3.2 to / 3.4 reb a game while shooting 36% from the field, 32% from three point range, and 67% from the free throw line. If you look at Mudiay’s stats so far this year, they look eerily similar in most categories. Through 32 games, he’s averaging 13.1 points / 3.8 ast / 2.7 to / 4.0 reb a game while shooting 38% from the field, 33% from three point range, and 78% from the free throw line. Besides the major improvement in free throw percentage and a small decline in turnovers and assists, his stats are about the same. You may be asking – “Wait, didn’t you say there WAS some progression?”
Through the last 10 games Emmanuel has been averaging 13.0 pts / 3.8 ast / 2.1 to / 3.2 reb a game while shooting 47% from the field, 47% from three point range, and 77% from the free throw line. Admittedly, this is a small sample size, but it proves that Mudiay is taking some steps in the right direction. He seems to be taking smarter shots in a better rhythm and forcing it less often. Plus, it’s not like we are replacing him with a proven commodity. Jameer Nelson is a good player, but we know his ceiling and he’s best suited to be a bench scorer/facilitator. Jamal Murray may deserve more playing time, but I caution those clamoring for him to replace Mudiay altogether – you’ll be going through the same growing pains and possibly halting the growth of a future star. Mudiay was thrown into the fire as a rookie without any college experience and only one year of playing overseas. I still think Emmanuel Mudiay has a lot to show Nuggets fans, and I think he will lead the Nuggets to a playoff spot this season, even though you may scream at your TV a few more times with a young PG continuing to learn the ropes.
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