The seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft, Emmanuel Mudiay, will have to fight to earn his starting job back with the Denver Nuggets.
In 2015, The Denver Nuggets selected Emmanuel Mudiay with the seventh overall pick, in hopes he would become their franchise point guard. Through two seasons, Mudiay has struggled to even secure the starting job. While he’s still young, the development is taking longer than expected.
Mudiay’s first two years weren’t awful. He averaged eleven points, just under four assists, and he grabbed almost three rebounds per game. He actually was handed all-rookie second team honors in 2015-16. But various factors have prevented Mudiay from turning a corner in his game .
The former first rounder has dealt with numerous injuries through his young career. Mudiay has missed half a season’s worth of games due to ankle sprains and back issues.
At the start of training camp, head coach Mike Malone announced that there would be a competition for the starting point guard job. With veteran Jameer Nelson missing most of the preseason due to an injury, Mudiay and Murray have alternated taking reps with the starting unit.
Through four games this preseason, the former McDonald’s All-American is averaging 10.5 PPG, 4.5 APG and 3 TOPG in just under 23 minutes per appearance. Entering his third season now, the Nuggets were hoping to see Mudiay seize the opportunity to be named the starter, but he hasn’t been able to do so thus far.
Heading into the draft, scouts and experts couldn’t stop drooling over Mudiay’s athleticism and raw tools. At six foot five and 200 pounds, the Congo native has an incredible combination of both size and speed.
Mudiay chose the more unorthodox route to the NBA opting to skip college at SMU and play overseas. There was speculation that he would have eligibility issues, but he said that it did not factor into his decision.
Coach Malone put a big emphasis on defense this year and was clear that it will factor into his decision regarding the starting point guard battle. While Mudiay hasn’t blossomed into an elite defensive guard, he has all the physical tools to become a plus defender at the one.
Mudiay possesses an impressive frame for a point guard. With a six foot eight wingspan, he is able to disrupt passing lanes, and keep defenders in front of him. His leaping ability doesn’t hurt on that end either.
Mudiay has his weaknesses but he by all means has an NBA body. With his athleticism, it’s not hard to see why the Nuggets drafted him seventh overall.
Attacking the defense
With speed, strength and solid passing ability, there is no denying Mudiay is at his best when attacking the rim. He has great bounce, a large frame and the speed and strength to blow past smaller guards.
Mudiay is also an above average passer and has the tools to become a great one. It all comes down to the third year guard’s decision making. If he can minimize the turnovers he has the tools to become a solid drive-and-dish threat.
From day one there have been questions surrounding Mudiay’s jumper. His athleticism can allow the twenty-one year old to score in other ways, but in the NBA you have to be able to shoot the ball. His shooting is likely the main reason for Mudiay falling out of the rotation last year and the reason for the ensuing position battle this year.
For his career, Mudiay’s shooting splits are 36.9/31.7/72.1. The 36.9 field goal percentage is the most alarming of the three. Mudiay does not have to be great from three, his free throw shooting should be better, though it’s tolerable. But his field goal percentage is flat out disgusting. This is due to a mixture of both bad shot selection and just bad shooting. Unfortunately, Mudiay did not show much improvement in his shooting numbers from year one to year two.
Through four preseason games, Mudiay is shooting 43.2 percent from the field. He was making more than half of his field goal attempts until his performance against the Spurs on Sunday night caused that number to plummet.
Mudiay does not have to be an elite shooter, or even a well above average shooter, but the threat has to be there. As long as Emmanual is under forty percent from the field, defenses will not respect his shot. That will in turn hurt Mudiay’s ability to penetrate and attack the basket. The Nuggets offense is built to score in so many different ways. Denver can survive with an average shooting point guard, but someone who can’t shoot at all is hard to play. Right now Mudiay is considered a below average shooter. If he wants to become that franchise point guard, his shooting numbers will have to improve.
Turnovers are the biggest problem for the young point guard. Mudiay has struggled to take care of the ball since entering the league. Again this is due mostly in part to his decision making and inexperience. He has great passing ability but he has a tendency to force the ball into non-existent passing lanes.
Mudiay also struggled with turnovers during his one season in China. In twelve games with the Guangdong Foshan club Emmanuel turned the ball over a disappointing 3.25 times a game.
If Mudiay wants to stay in this rotation he has to correct this problem. Traditional point guard play is what he’s supposed to bring to the table, but the turnovers neutralize his positive contributions in the assist column.
Emmanuel Mudiay has had his fair share of ups and downs in his first two seasons. From taking over as point guard day one, to falling out of the rotation, Mudiay has had a seemingly long career for such a young player. His athleticism shows his potential is off the charts, but in year three, questions if he’ll ever hit that potential linger.
People forget how young the third year pro really is. The six-foot-five guard will enter the 2017-18 season as a 21-year old. This guy could still be a senior in college. The start has been slow, but the potential is still there.
If Mudiay can make the big jump in his third season, it could take the Denver Nuggets to the next level. While Jamal Murray shows tons of promise as a scoring guard the Nuggets could still use a more traditional point guard in their rotation.
Mudiay was given the reigns to the offense his rookie season. Then, last year, due to nagging injuries and poor play, he lost his job. Now, entering his third season, Mudiay has the chance to regain the starting role. But he may be running out of chances.