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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Emmanuel Mudiay’s Play

Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

Karl-Anthony Towns is playing great in Minnesota.

D’Angelo Russell is coming on as of late after not playing much for the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter earlier this year.

Jahlil Okafor’s had off-court issues but has shown promise as a low-post scorer, while Kristaps Porzingis has become the darling of New York Knicks fans. 

One of the players people thought the Knicks may take before they selected Porzingis was point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who wound up going No. 7 to the Denver Nuggets. Suffice to say the Knicks are happy with their selection, as Porzingis looks like a budding superstar while Mudiay has struggled in his rookie campaign, although it’s obviously much too early to jump to any conclusions. 

Mudiay came to the NBA after playing one season with the Guangdong Southern Tigers, a professional team in China. During his time with the Tigers (which was shortened by injury), he averaged 18 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.3 steals. 

Mudiay hasn’t been able to replicate that kind of success in Denver. In some games he may drop double-digit points and five-plus assists, like he has in nine games, and in others he’ll turn over the ball five-plus times, like he has in seven games.

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from Mudiay through the 23 games he’s played during his rookie season.

The Good

Coming into the NBA, multiple scouting reports tabbed Mudiay as a great passer, and he hasn’t disappointed in that department, as he ranks No. 21 in the NBA in assists per game with 5.7. That’s better than Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic and Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker. Not only does Mudiay rank in the top 25 in assists per game, but he’s first among all rookies, with Philadelphia 76ers point guard T.J. McConnell in second with 5.4 assists per game.

The Bad

Mudiay can distribute the ball to his teammates, but he also gives it to his opponents way too often. Coming into the league, he had a 1.82 assist-to-turnover ratio, which isn’t bad for a 19-year-old, but also not great. This season, Mudiay’s sometimes careless play has given him a 1.51 assist-to-turnover ratio, which makes him the 69th-most efficient playmaker in the league.

The Ugly

Mudiay’s shooting ability was a question coming in to the NBA, and he’s not only been erratic, but downright terrible. He’s shooting 31.1 percent from the field, which ranks him dead last in the league among players with over 100 shot attempts. And not only is he shooting 31.1 percent from the field, but he’s also shooting 24.7 percent from behind the three-point line. He’s had two three-game streaks in which he shot less than 27 percent

Synopsis

While those statistics above aren’t pretty, Mudiay has shown flashes of his elite potential. Just go watch his film against the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 9 or Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 11: 

Heck, after that game on Nov. 11, Bucks head coach Jason Kidd said, “I think he will be better than me at the end of the day.”

That quote comes from the man who’s second all-time in assists, which is very high praise for Mudiay.

But for Kidd to be true on that statement, Mudiay must find a consistent jump shot and limit the turnovers.

Mudiay’s progress will be a process for the Nuggets, and with the ankle injury he recently sustained against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the process has been slowed down a bit.

Something to remember, however, is that he’s only 19 years old and has a long time to mature and grow as a player.

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