The Denver Nuggets enter 2016-17 riding an explosive back court, with point guard Emmanuel Mudiay leading the charge. Following a rookie campaign filled with excitement and mistakes, Mudiay is poised to take a huge step forward in his development this season. With the addition of shooting guard Jamal Murray, Mudiay has a sharp shooting back court mate who is expected to alleviate some of the scoring responsibility for the Nuggets. Will that translate to better decision making and more efficient offensive possessions from Mudiay in 2016-17? The Nuggets are counting on it, as Mudiay’s development will be key for the teams success during the coming season.
2016-17 Denver Nuggets Player Preview: Emmanuel Mudiay
Entering the NBA, Mudiay was known as a scoring guard. Explosive to the rim, and a skilled finisher, he brings a skill set designed to thrive in a fast paced Nuggets offense. Despite his physical gifts, questions linger about Mudiay in regard to his shot selection and decision making on offense. Too many possessions end with bad shot selection, or missed passes that would result in scoring opportunities for teammates. During his rookie campaign, Mudiay averaged 12.8 points per contest while shooting 36.4% from the field, and an embarrassing 31.9% from beyond the arc. He struggled from the free throw line, shooting 67% from the charity stripe, failing to take full advantage of his attacking style of play.
In 2016-17, Denver will look for Mudiay to shoot less and distribute more. Nuggets coach Mike Malone will look to get into the offense early, with most outside shots coming from off ball screens to Murray. It is expected that Denver will utilize more pick and rolls within the offense, creating additional at the rim opportunities for Mudiay, where he is at his best. Look for coach Malone to work on improving Mudiay’s free throw shooting, as this is the most likely area where he can impact Mudiay’s scoring output immediately.
Despite scoring struggles in 2015-16, Mudiay is not a “shoot first” player, which is encouraging for the Nuggets moving forward. With back court scoring help, and improved motion in the offense, the assist column is where Mudiay can make his biggest mark on the Nuggets offense. Following a rookie campaign that included 5.5 assists per game, Denver will build on that production and create a more fluid product on offense. The addition of Murray will create more catch and shoot opportunities from a capable shooter, impacting Mudiay’s bottom line in the assist column. He will also enjoy more dribble drive opportunities, which will result in easy assists to capable scorers inside. If Mudiay plays within the offense, and improves his decision making when his shot is not there, expect to see an improvement in the assist column in 2016-17.
Outside of shooting, the biggest area of opportunity for Mudiay on offense is ball protection. Denver will look to improve on Mudiay’s 3.2 turnovers per game. Again, this falls in the category of improved decision making, knowing when to get rid of the ball when he is in trouble. These improvements come from experience. With a year under his belt, expect Mudiay to be more protective of the ball in year 2.
Emmanuel Mudiay will not expected to attack the boards from the point guard position. Denver has quality rebounders in Kenneth Faried and Nikola Jokic manning the middle, and expect to attack in transition. So the 3.4 rebounds per game in 2015-16 met the status quo, and aren’t a cause for concern. Experience will teach Mudiay when to focus on the glass, and when to break out in transition. 2016-17 will bring an increase in Mudiay’s rebound totals, but he will be looked to support transition above all else.
What does need improvement is defensive intensity and focus. In 2015-16, Mudiay only averaged 1.0 steals per game, which is below league average at the point guard position. Improving on this number will lead to transition opportunities that will vital to the Nuggets success in 2016-17. There is opportunity for Mudiay to be more aggressive on defense, working to generate steals. With an average of 2.1 fouls per game, Mudiay went through 2015-16 working to limit mistakes. The biggest mistake Mudiay can make in 2016-17 is not being more aggressive on the defensive end of the court.
2016-17 Season Outlook
The Denver Nuggets expect to see a more efficient Emmanuel Mudiay in 2016-17. The front office were successful during the NBA Draft in fleshing out the roster with complimentary talent. With a season under coach Malone, the Nuggets are more comfortable on both ends, playing more and thinking less. These factors will bode well for Mudiay’s development throughout his second NBA season. With improved free throw shooting, more efficient shot selection, and a pass first mentality; Mudiay is in a position to thrive as the Nuggets point guard this season.
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