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Game thread: Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers

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R.E.L.A.X.Relax

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I want to take a little time to talk about Emmanuel Mudiay. Much of the discussion in this early season has revolved around his turnovers and lack of play-making - and with good reason. Mudiay has not been creating nearly as many shots for teammates as we saw last season, and his turnover bugaboo has once again asserted itself. He is jumping to pass, driving deep into the paint with no idea of what he's going to do, and making soft, lazy, telegraphed passes. When he gets into the paint (or starting in the post), but not to the rim, he still tends to resort to a fall away, turn around jumper that he shoots on the way down. Additionally, his usage rate is extremely high at nearly 29%, putting him safely among the top usage players in the league. This makes for a disturbing combination.

On a more positive note, since the Boston game, he is shooting lights out from three. Even though his percentages don't show it as much, he is doing a much better job at the rim in using his body and fighting through contact. I expect his percentage in the restricted area to climb, and to climb quickly. He is able to get pretty much wherever he wants when he attacks off the dribble. Mudiay also has been really, really good on the defensive end and at rebounding.

So...do the negatives outweigh the positives? If you read the comment section here at denverstiffs.com, it would sure seem so. There have been numerous calls to bench and/or trade the 2nd year 20 year old PG. And, to be clear, he hasn't been good. He has turned the ball over a ton. He has looked more to shoot than to distribute. He hasn't passed with the elite acumen we we saw flashes of last season. These things we know to be true. With all that being said, I want to propose an alternate theory, one other than "Mudiay sucks! He's a complete bust!" as a reason for this.

It's no secret that Emmanuel has struggled with his shot. Even given his improvement over the 2nd half of last season, he was well below the league average at the rim or anywhere inside the 3 point line (he did shoot around league average from three after the ASB last season). What seems to have been forgotten in the analysis of Mudiay's early season performance is that every single other team in the NBA knows this!

That's right! Amazingly, the other 29 NBA teams have watched copious amounts of film on Emmanuel. They all know his struggles shooting the ball. It's an open secret that Mudiay flat out struggles to shoot (his of late three point shooting notwithstanding). As a team game planning to face the Nuggets, clearly you would want to put Mudiay in a position to shoot rather than to distribute - and that's exactly what Denver's opponents are doing.

Denver's opponents are not just going under screens in the pick and roll, they are also sagging off of Mudiay, inviting him to shoot. Additionally, not only are teams encouraging Mudiay to shoot, they are also making sure that they are taking away all the passing lanes. The kick to the weak side corner isn't there. The pocket pass to the roller isn't available. The over the shoulder kick out to the shooter above the break has been covered. Defenses are making sure that Emmanuel's options are either to shoot, or to force a pass through a morass of defenders. Every single team who has faced off against the Nuggets this season has played Mudiay in the pick and roll with this in mind. To Mudiay's credit, he's been willing (for the most part) to take the shots. To Mudiay's - and the team's - detriment, he's not been making nearly enough of those shots.

So, what is the answer? How does Mudiay open up those passing lanes? Is it simply a matter of changing the line up, of putting more shooters around him, of -let's be clear - never, ever, ever playing Mudiay with the Jurkic lineup? Those changes certainly couldn't hurt. If defenders are forced to play more "honest," the passing lanes (and driving lanes) would open up more than they currently have been. However, that isn't enough. Even if the Nuggets have a line up of all plus shooters from three point range, defenses will still play Mudiay for the pass. They will still dare him to shoot.

And, to be clear, he must shoot.

The only real answer is for Emmanuel, the only way those passing lanes will again open up for him, is if he proves to the NBA that he is a threat to score. Otherwise, he might as well resign himself to having a career path like what Elfrid Payton finds himself on.

Keep shooting, Emmanuel. But, for goodness sake, start making shots.

Poll

Should Emmanuel Mudiay continue to shoot?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Yes
    (45 votes)
  • 52%
    No
    (50 votes)
95 votes total Vote Now