Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay is going into a pivotal third season with the team and is looking to reclaim the role of the team’s starting point guard.
Emmanuel Mudiay started 66 games during his rookie season in 2015 during which he averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 assists per game. In his sophomore season, those numbers dropped to 41 starts, 11 points and 3.9 assists per game. Injuries caused Mudiay to miss some time and ultimately cost him his starting job.
This will be Mudiay’s third season in a Nuggets uniform and he’ll face some pressure to make significant improvements. The Denver Nuggets knew that Mudiay would be a long term project when they drafted him with the seventh pick in the 2015 NBA draft. But they probably didn’t expect his game to take this long to develop.
The Nuggets drafted Mudiay with hopes that they’d found their point guard of the future. That picture of the future became a little less clear though when the team used the seventh pick in last year’s draft to select Kentucky product Jamal Murray.
Murray and Mudiay are now battling for the Nuggets starting point guard position and there seems to be no clear leader at the moment. Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson is also in the running for the job, but he missed most of training camp with a toe injury and seems to have no timetable as to when he will return to practice.
It’s a two horse race at the moment and it’s a race that Mudiay may have a better chance of winning than people think. The team is stressing camaraderie and healthy competition amongst their guards, but obviously, Mudiay wants to be the one that’s out there with the starters on opening night:
“Ya know I want it. But, at the same time you just have to go out there and try to compete.”
Mudiay has been the talk of Nuggets training camp so far. He’s earned rave reviews from head coach Michael Malone in the coach’s post-practice interviews:
“All the areas that we gave him to work on: tightening up his handle, doing a better job of finishing in traffic at the rim, becoming a more consistent jump shooter … being in better shape … I mean all those areas, he’s come back and he’s improved upon. So, he’s had six very good practices…”
Mudiay seems to be playing with confidence. Despite the improvements that Malone listed, Mudiay says the biggest adjustment he made over the offseason was a mental one:
“ (It’s) Just my mentality. I know I can always play, so it’s just the fact that, yeah, know to stop thinking so much and letting people into my head.”
The starting point guard spot is the only spot in the Nuggets starting line-up that hasn’t been filled yet. The Nuggets will use what they see in training camp and the preseason to determine who should start alongside Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic.
Training camp helps the staff get a better understanding of how their depth chart should shake out. But the preseason will also provide them with more opportunities to evaluate these guards’ respective progress.
The Nuggets will get their preseason started on Saturday evening with a 5:30 pm start time in Oakland, where they’ll take on the defending champs.
As Mudiay himself pointed out himself, this is no regular season match up, but it’s still a competition and the players will relish the opportunity to play some ball:
“It’s fun. We’re going to see where we match up. I mean it’s not going to be like the regular season. But at the same time it’s still going to be fun to go out there and compete.”
Coach Malone has yet to name the starting point guard for the Nuggets preseason opener Saturday night. Look for Murray and Mudiay to split equal minutes with Jameer Nelson being out. Stay tuned to Dig In Denver as we’ll be recapping the point guard situation as training camp and the preseason roll on.