Over the next few weeks, the Denver Stiffs staff will be previewing the 2016-17 Denver Nuggets. The team enters Michael Malone’s second season with the Nuggets with a mix of new and familiar faces. With a roster mixed with young talent like Jamal Murray and more experienced veterans like Wilson Chandler, the Nuggets are looking to improve on their 33-49 record from last season.
Emmanuel Mudiay was a strong preseason contender for the Rookie of the Year award last season, but a rough start to the season followed by an ankle injury derailed that hype train before Christmas. Mudiay returned from his injury with a higher level of comfort with the NBA game, and finished the season strong to give the organization a glimpse of better days ahead.
Mudiay is a physical specimen at point guard. With his height and strength, he has the physical tools to be a special player at the position. He has the quickness to stay with smaller guards, the length to bother bigger guards, and the size to bother his man in isolation plays. He has the potential to be a great defensive guard.
His ability to make difficult passes with ease is another element of his game that pops out when watching him play. Most human beings can’t move the ball as far and as fast as he can, in the opposite direction of his momentum, with just the flick of a wrist. It’s surreal at times to watch him skip the ball to the wing from the paint, and hit his teammate right in the chest.
Mudiay often looks to set up his teammates, and uses his ballhandling to create scoring opportunities without necessarily putting the ball in the hoop. This next season will be an opportunity for him to learn how to pick his moments to score when the team needs him to, and to let that come naturally in the flow of the game. The talent around him should be better than it was at the end of the previous season.
Mudiay is the Nuggets starting point guard - that much is certain. He should be playing 30 minutes a night at least, win or lose, including being part of the lineup that closes out games in the fourth quarter.
Defense. With his physical gifts, his goal should be to become one of the top defensive point guards in the league. He can work through and around screens, his knowledge of the game should help him avoid getting caught sleeping on plays, and with his quickness, he should be able to get steals.
Everything else. His ballhandling was loose at times, his jumper is a work in progress (albeit better now than when he started), and he struggled to finish around the rim. It’s easy to say that this is due to his lack of experience - he had 12 games in China as his experience out of high school before starting for the Nuggets - but eventually he won’t be able to use that as a crutch. I don’t expect him to solve all his problems in his second year, but if the Nuggets are still working on the same things with him in three years, that could be a problem.
Projected 2016-17 Season Stats
Courtesy of Hashtag Basketball, here are projections for Emmanuel Mudiay.
The Nuggets have team options they can exercise for Mudiay’s 2017-18 and 2018-19 season, and a qualifying offer they can extend for his 2019-20 season.