Nineteen-year-old Emmanuel Mudiay was one of the biggest mysteries heading into the 2015 NBA Draft.
Mudiay skipped college to play in China, and despite playing well, his action was limited after he hurt his ankle and missed three valuable months for NBA personnel to scout him.
When he came back to the US, the NBA world was split on whether to view him as an intriguingly tall, athletic point guard or a risky, unknown player who couldn’t shoot.
Mudiay slipped to the Denver Nuggets at No. 7 — a fairly far drop from No. 3, where some people thought the Philadelphia 76ers would take him — and some analysts felt a closer look at him scared some teams off.
Now, however, Mudiay is turning heads at the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League. Though the games are meaningless exhibitions for young players to get reps and roster hopefuls to make impressions on teams, Mudiay has looked NBA-ready. Through three games, Mudiay has averaged 13 points, four rebounds, and seven assists per game, and while he hasn’t shot well, he’s shown an ability to break down defences and find open teammates.
Nuggets Summer League coach Micah Nori noted this skill, saying:
“And I think the one thing about Emmanuel that allows him to do that is his skill level with his ball handling. And the other thing is he’s a big kid, a big strong kid. Some guys, when they get pressure, turn their back to the floor, the one thing he’s able to do is be facing forward, facing that rim, and that’s why he can make any pass at any time. He finds guys that are open and hits them on time and on target.”
In an NBA era where offenses are often based on pick-and-rolls and spacing the floor, Mudiay’s game figures to translate well. Here, he frees himself up in the pick-and-roll and makes a tough one-handed pass to a wide open shooter in the corner:
Mudiay can also create his own shot in the pick-and-roll by slithering into the lane for easy layups:
Though defences will dare Mudiay to shoot — he has made only 14% of his threes in Summer League — he can counter that by using his strong dribble drives to go right into the teeth of the defence and score:
Mudiay credited his time in China for adapting so well to the NBA game, and said he can adjust his role as needed:
“I can score when I need to but at the same time, [the Kings] were giving me wide open lanes. Me finding my teammates, that was the main important thing. I found my teammates. How ever the other team’s playing me, that’s how I’m going to play.”
As Nori also mentioned, Mudiay’s unselfishness will encourage teammates to move without the ball and run on fastbreaks, knowing Mudiay will hit them for easy opportunities:
Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said Mudiay will be given a lot of responsibility from the get-go:
“Emmanuel’s going to be a guy we feature early on. He’s too good not to do that. I think he can make everybody around him better. I think the veterans that are coming back will love playing with him…”
He has already made a fan of forward Wilson Chandler:
I really like Mudiay. Amazing vision
— Wilson Chandler (@wilsonchandler) July 13, 2015
Summer League, of course, is not a gauge for success in the NBA, but of the top picks in the draft, Mudiay may already be the most impressive. His strengths figure to translate to the next level, and if he can improve his weaknesses, he’ll make teams regret passing him up in the top six.
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