It shouldn’t surprise too many Nuggets fans, but head coach Michael Malone announced Wednesday that Jameer Nelson would remain in the starting lineup following the All-Star break, with Emmanuel Mudiay leading the second unit.
Jameer Nelson has taken over as the #Nuggets starting point guard, coach Michael Malone said.— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) February 22, 2017
Malone said he likes the chemistry that Nelson has gained with the starting 5 and is going to continue with him in the lineup— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) February 22, 2017
Doesn't mean Mudiay will never start again, Malone said. But Nelson is firmly in place there right now. #Nuggets— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) February 22, 2017
Mudiay has missed 11 of the previous 14 games due to injury, and in his stead, Nelson has demonstrated an ability to lead the offense in a superior manner than Mudiay has been able to at any point in his career. The Nuggets have a 25-31 record, and have the best odds to finish the season with the 8th-best record in the Western Conference, according to 538.
Nelson has been a better option alongside Nikola Jokic, with his ability to convert shots from the perimeter as well as not turn the ball over. There are obvious weaknesses with Nelson - defense, over-dribbling, shot selection - but those are all things Mudiay continues to struggle with in addition to many other things. The Nuggets seem to be content to let the season play out with Mudiay developing off of the bench.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN MUDIAY IS A BUST
I know what many of you might be thinking, and it goes a little like this:
AAAAAAAAAAAH— endless screaming (@infinite_scream) February 22, 2017
To which I would respond, “DON’T PANIC.”
This is merely an opportunity for Mudiay to finally learn at a slower pace than what he has had to deal with to start his career. It’s been said once, and will continue to be said until Mudiay isn’t on the team - he was asked to be a starting point guard in the NBA after a dozen games in China as his only professional experience at the age of 19.
I like to think of the difficulty of this task as if I was asked to take over for Jimmy Johnson on mile 450 of the Daytona 500, and I’d just eaten a couple chili dogs and had been on my way to free my bowels of the pressure that had suddenly appeared in my lower abdomen.
If the Nuggets backcourt of the future does actually involve Mudiay and Jamal Murray, then this is a great opportunity for these two players to gain chemistry together. Mudiay doesn’t have to be hounded by starting-caliber point guards in the league, and can instead learn how to succeed against backups. He can then take that confidence and experience into the starting lineup at a future date.
Mudiay started last season because the front office (although they won’t admit it) did not care about wins that season. If Mudiay swam, great. If he struggled, Jameer Nelson was on the roster and could take over. Now the team is in a different situation, and would, from all appearances, like to qualify for the postseason. Jameer Nelson in the starting lineup gives the team the best opportunity to succeed.
Barring a trade (please, Woj, don’t come after Mudiay) Mudiay is going to be on the team for quite some time. A 25 game stretch off the bench does not mean he is a bust.
In the mean time, I’ll be over here watching Mudiay highlights while burning through leftover candy hearts from Valentines Day.