October 18, 2018
Dakota Schmidt looks at the most enigmatic of all the top five draft candidates.

Following an illustrious high school run, where he was looked at as the number one point guard in the nation, Emmanuel Mudiay committed to play for Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown (and older brother Jean-Michael) at Southern Methodist. However, before he was able to suit up with the team, Mudiay bailed out on that agreement, deciding to sign with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). That decision netted Mudiay a contract worth $1.2 million, which made him the second highest-paid player in the entire league, despite having not played a minute outside of school.

Amid the controversy that surrounded Mudiay’s move, the young guard took on the pressure of leading the CBA’s most prestigious squad. Prior to Mudiay’s arrival, Guangdong made it to the CBA Finals in ten of the last eleven seasons, winning the title in eight of them. The lone exception took place during the 2013-14 season, as the team failed to make the Finals for the first time since 2001-02. It was that relative lack of success which led to Guangdong taking a financial risk to acquire the young guard.

After 10 games, in which he helped lead the team to a league-best 8-2 record, the young guard suffered an ankle injury, which seemingly sidelined him for the remainder of the season. But despite the team signing NBA veteran Will Bynum, the Southern Tigers didn’t release Mudiay, nor did the young guard decide to return to the States.

After spending more than three months on the mend, Mudiay returned to the team for two key playoff matchups against Beijing. Coming off that injury, Mudiay put up a 24 point (8-on-19 shooting), 8 rebound and 4 assist performance in a first game win, alongside 15 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds in a second game loss. In Mudiay’s 12 games with Guangdong, the young guard averaged 18 points (47% from the field, 34% from the perimeter and 57% from the free throw line), 6 assists and 6 rebounds per game.

To coincide with those base stats, we’re going to take a look at film from a handful of games to get a more thorough understanding of Emmanuel Mudiay.

Strengths

The first thing you notice when looking at film of Mudiay would be his sheer explosiveness. Whether it be in transition or through pick-and-rolls, Mudiay has a fantastic ability to drive to the paint whenever he desires. That singular trait has opened up a bevy of different ways that Mudiay is able to help his team out, whether it would be as a scorer or facilitator.

With his 6’5 frame, Mudiay is able to overlook the defense and make players that smaller guards are unable to make. That advantage is evident on his cuts to the paint, as he can make crisp, precise passes back out to perimeter players. As well as this, Mudiay can work it to off-ball cutters that are working their way to the paint.

Another area where Mudiay is able to use his long frame to his advantage would be through facilitating out of the pick-and-roll. Mainly working through pick-and-rolls with former NBA lottery pick Yi Jianlian last year, Mudiay is able to use that frame to read the defense to make the necessary pass, whether the big is cutting to the rim or sticking towards the perimeter. While he’s not as flashy as Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, Mudiay’s unselfish nature combined with his excellent court vision allows him to be one of the finest facilitators in this year’s draft.

While he usually looks to facilitate before anything else, Mudiay is definitely a capable scorer. Working mainly as an off-ball cutter, Mudiay is able to use his aforementioned quickness to drive his way to the paint. The 6’5 guard has a tight handle and can change speed in the blink of an eye, which has made him deadly in pick-and-rolls. Alongside that explosiveness, Mudiay does a good job of changing speeds, as he uses an array of hesitation moves to create an open lane to the rim, showcased below.

Once he’s able to work his way to the paint, Mudiay shows himself to be an outstanding finisher. With a long, muscular frame, Mudiay demonstrated an ability to finish through contact, as he shot 51% from inside the two-point line. Additionally, Mudiay displays solid fundamentals, doing a great job of keeping the ball up as high as possible and making it difficult for opposing bigs to block his layups.

On the other end of the court, Mudiay has the potential to be the best perimeter defender in this year’s draft. He displays terrific instincts as both an on-ball and pick-and-roll defender. Mudiay does an amazing job of being able to decide whether to work over or under those off-ball screens, which allows him to contest most shots, and has tremendous potential as an on-ball defender. He gets in a good defensive stance, stays aggressive and has a lot of lateral quickness.

Weaknesses

Undoubtedly, the biggest flaw of Mudiay’s all-around game would be his struggles as both a perimeter and free throw shooter. In his time with Guangdong, Mudiay shot 30% on four attempts per-40 minutes from beyond the arc. A big reason behind those perimeter troubles is due to his inconsistent shooting stroke. When you take a close look at Mudiay’s jumper, you notice two significant things:

  1. He releases a lot of his shots while going down on his shooting stroke, and;
  2. He has a low release point which prevents the ball from getting too much arc.

That troubling stroke has prevented him from being able to shoot both off the dribble or through catch-and-shoot opportunities. That troubled stroke has also been the main cause behind his struggles as a free throw shooter. Because of the low release point, the shot looks more like a straight line drive than the typical high-arcing shot that you see from a typical free throw.

These struggles has seemingly killed any confidence as a shooter. But while that mindset is definitely warranted, Mudiay passes up a lot of open perimeter looks to cut to the paint, even when it’s crowded with opposing bigs. This is the single biggest weakness in his game today, but it’s a big one.

Elsewhere, although Mudiay is an unselfish player and a solid facilitator, he is prone to turning the ball over. During his stint with Guangdong, Mudiay averaged 4.1 turnovers per 40 minutes. To put that in perspective, that high average would be the highest total among the college players that have entered the draft. Mudiay has moments where he gets overzealous and attack into a crowd. That particular weakness could simply be fixed by becoming more relaxed with playing as the lead guard, yet it speaks to his rawness and lack of experience at the pro level.

While the defensive potential is high for Mudiay, he definitely has a lot of notable lapses on that end. Although he’s showcased an innate ability to quickly work around screens, he has moments where he looks a little lazy, which could lead to some easy plays for the offense. Similar to a lot of young guards, Mudiay is prone to ball watching, which ultimately leads his man to get some easy backdoor cuts.

Draft Range

As of this time, mock drafts have Mudiay going as high as the New York Knicks’s fourth overall pick (NBA.com) to as low Denver’s seventh overall pick (DraftExpress).

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Fits

New York Knicks (fourth overall pick)

Given their needs all over the court, the Knicks are one of the lone teams in the draft where you could reasonably see them drafting a player that works at any position, which it makes it tough to truly determine where they’re going to go. However, with Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns likely going as the top two picks in some order, along with the Phialdelphia 76ers either going with Kristaps Porzingis or Russell, Mudiay might be the best player still available by the time the Knicks pick.

The Knicks are in dire need of a point guard, after suffering through the duo of Shane Larkin and Jose Calderon. But despite this, Mudiay has been said to not be the most ideal fit because of the team’s usage of the triangle offense. That offensive set is based around making quick passes, off-ball movement and working it to shooters. Neither of those ideas particularly mesh with Mudiay, as he’s a ball dominant guard that struggles as a shooter.

While a player pushing the ball into the teeth of the defense isn’t a major part of the triangle offense, Mudiay would nevertheless definitely be able to take advantage of the spacing that the triangle provides. Mudiay is possibly the best player in the draft when it comes to being able to utilize spacing to either cut to the rim or work it out to a perimeter teammate. As well as this, the young guard can wreck some damage by using the off-ball screen that the offense has set up, whether it would be in the pinch post with Carmelo Anthony or via corner screens with a mid-range jump shooting big like Jason Smith.

Orlando Magic (fifth overall pick)

Although some high-profile draft sites have linked Mudiay to Orlando in their recent mocks, it seems like the least plausible outcome in this lottery. The Magic seem to have their own young backcourt in place with Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, who share extremely similar traits to Mudiay: athletic, defensive-minded guards that aren’t perimeter threats.

He seems to know this too; Mudiay not working out for the Magic seems to be a good sign that either he has no interest in Orlando, or vice versa. Or both.

Sacramento Kings (sixth overall pick)

From my perspective as an NBA addict, Sacramento is the most appealing fit for Emmanuel Mudiay. The sheer thought of him working with DeMarcus Cousins on pick-and-rolls for the next decade is exciting. Working alongside an All-NBA threat like Cousins would also allow Mudiay to have a bevy of open lanes, as the defense would pay close attention to the fantastic center.

Aside from that potential work with Cousins, Mudiay would also be able to work alongside a bevy of solid perimeter threats (Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas and Rudy Gay). Not only will that additional spacing create some driving lanes for Mudiay, but it would also give the young guard weapons for drive and kicks.

As well, the up-tempo nature of George Karl’s offense would be a great fit for how Mudiay likes to play. The young guard absolutely thrives when he can use his sheer explosiveness to fly up the court in transition, where he can either throw down tremendous dunks or kick it out to a perimeter target.

Denver Nuggets (seventh overall pick)

If Sacramento doesn’t make the obvious decision to draft Mudiay, then Denver would be the next best fit for the young guard. Similar to Sacramento, the Nuggets offense has thrived on having a high-paced attack with mobile bigs. While neither Kenneth Faried or Danilo Gallinari are at the same level as Cousins, they’re both bigs that could fit nicely alongside Mudiay.

Faried could be a superb weapon for Mudiay, as the forward makes his mark as being a high-energy big that can cut to the rim whenever he desires. In 2014-15, Faried averaged a team high 1.11 PPP (Points Per Possession) through transition and 1.03 PPP through pick-and-rolls.

On the other hand, Mudiay and Gallinari could have an ample amount of success, because of how well-rounded the Nuggets forward is offensively. While the duo could work in straight pick-and-pop action (Gallinari is shooting 37% from three point range during his NBA career), the fact that the veteran forward can also work to the paint could create some open cutting lanes for Emmanuel Mudiay.

Best Fit : Sacramento Kings

As previously stated, Mudiay working alongside Cousins or the rest of the team’s offense could be an absolutely perfect fit. Mudiay matching up alongside Cousins would allow the young guard to showcase the wide array of pick-and-roll skills that he possess, whether it would be working on drive-and-dish plays or simply taking advantage of the constant double teams that the NBA All-Star constantly draws.

Of course, this relies upon them keeping Cousins.

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Dakota Schmidt

Basketball writer based on Wisconsin that spends way too much time watching basketball film. In the times where he's not watching tape, you can see him working on becoming a veterinary technician or hanging out with his dog, who is the subject of many pictures taken by his owner.

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