DALLAS – He skipped playing college ball, only played a handful of professional games in China and yet he’s already set to make an impact in the NBA.
In his first few preseason games, Emmanuel Mudiay has shown enough substance and potential to garner the highly acclaimed title of “Must Watch Rookie.”
Despite having some issues with turnovers in his first few games of action on the NBA level, the Denver Nuggets first-round draft pick has displayed a calm maturity to his game which should only get better over the course of an 82-game season. Not bad for a 19-year-old who’s been given the keys to the kingdom by the Nuggets front office and coaching staff.
“It’s cool. The more I am out there, the more comfortable I get,” Mudiay said after a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks. “I’m just learning from these guys. Jameer (Nelson), (Nuggets head coach Michael) Malone and all the veterans are helpful.”
Even with the positive early reviews, both Mudiay and the coaching staff realize his rookie season will be more about his development than stats:
“We feel when we drafted Emmanuel we were getting a 19-year-old player with tremendous upside, tremendous potential,” Malone said. “His personality is such that he wants to learn; he wants to get better.”
Mudiay gave Nuggets fans a glimpse of what to expect from him in the game against the Mavericks. After only scoring eight points through three quarters of action, an aggressive Mudiay put his personal stamp on the game by scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to close out the victory for the Nuggets.
“You just have to be aggressive,” Mudiay said. “I was just trying to make plays to win. We didn’t have a lot of veterans out there with me, so we just had to find a way to go out there and win.”
After finishing last season with a horrible (30-52) record, the Nuggets organization is definitely counting on the talented Mudiay to play a big role in getting them back in the playoff hunt and turning them into a perennial championship contender. To alleviate some of the pressure off Mudiay’s shoulders, Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly and Malone brought in veterans like Nelson and Mike Miller, who both bring NBA Finals experience to the table to show the young star the ropes.
You can also add guard Randy Foye, who will spend his second season with the Nuggets, as another mentor to Mudiay this year. Though it’s early, the nine-year NBA veteran definitely feels the young Mudiay already possesses the right traits and mindset it takes to be a star in the NBA:
“He’s an extremely confident player, he is poised out there and makes the right passes,” Foye said. “He has made some mistakes out there, but they’re all mistakes that are fixable. I think he is going to be really good in this league and he has the work ethic to prove it.”