Dec 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) guards Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 127-114. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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The Denver Nuggets are reportedly shopping point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Should the New York Knicks make a move for the promising playmaker?
The Denver Nuggets are in fire sale mode and the New York Knicks could be of the most interested buyers. Denver has a surplus of promising young talent, albeit without a star to pull it all together and—stop me if you’ve heard this before—a detrimental age gap between key players.
As the Knicks prepare to build for the future and the Nuggets search for an identity, a flashback to the 2015 NBA Draft could be the answer for both teams.
Denver has a number of tantalizing trade options, including the aforementioned Wilson Chandler. The most surprising news to emerge from Denver, however, is that second-year point guard Emmanuel Mudiay could be one of the players moved at the deadline.
According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, the Nuggets are quietly exploring what they may be able to get for a package of Mudiay and multiple draft picks.
The Nuggets are quietly exploring what they might get for Emmanuel Mudiay and multiple picks, sources say, but they’re in no rush to move Mudiay, and the Suns may not want him when they could simply draft a point guard.
That’s a telling sign that Denver is attempting to make a move for a superstar.
Given the Nuggets’ conceivably high asking price, it stands to reason that Mudiay is an unrealistic target. If the Knicks go through with trading Carmelo Anthony, however, Denver could be introduced as a member of a three-team deal.
If traded, Anthony would likely go to one of three teams: the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers. If New York would rather start over than land a player in their prime, Mudiay could be a part of the package coming back to New York in a three-team deal.
The question is: would Mudiay be a worthy inclusion in a trade that would send Anthony from New York to a contending team?
Jan 27, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) celebrates after a dunk against the Charlotte Hornets with New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Pro: Fitting The Timeline
If the New York Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony, the goal will be to get younger and fit the timeline of the next franchise player: Kristaps Porzingis. The current hurdle is that the two franchise players, Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, are 11 years apart in age.
By acquiring Emmanuel Mudiay, the Knicks would give Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez a perimeter star who fits their timeline.
Porzingis is a 21-year-old phenom at power forward and Hernangomez is a 22-year-old force at center. Porzingis has solidified his place as a rising star, while Hernangomez is beginning to show flashes of similar potential.
Neither are quite ready to help the Knicks pursue a championship, but both project to be starters and franchise cornerstones for the next decade plus.
Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings are intriguing options at point guard, but the Knicks could develop Mudiay at the same pace as Hernangomez and Porzingis. He’s a 20-year-old point guard who has the better part of his career ahead of him.
If New York were to acquire Mudiay, it would have its interior and playmaker on the same timeline—a possibility that’s too intriguing to entirely ignore.
Dec 10, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) shoots the ball over Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka (7) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Con: Outside Shooting
In the modern NBA, players who struggle to consistently knock down open jump shots are offensive liabilities. That’s proven untrue in some instances, but players such as John Wall and Russell Westbrook have elite skills that help more than their erratic jumpers hurt.
It’s entirely possible that Emmanuel Mudiay will develop into a Wall-like player, but until that transpires, his lackluster shooting is a concern.
Mudiay shot 31.9 percent from 3-point range during the 2015-16 season and is down to 31.6 percent in 2016-17. He made 1.1 3-point field goal per game in 2015-16 and is up to 1.2 in 2016-17, but the volume is met by inefficiency.
More concerning is the fact that he shot 36.4 percent from the field in 2015-16 and is converting at a clip of 37.4 percent in 2016-17.
An encouraging sign is that Mudiay has gone from shooting 67.0 percent at the free throw line in 2015-16 to 77.1 percent in 2016-17. He’s still one of the least efficient scorers in the Association, however, and that can’t be downplayed or overlooked.
Derrick Rose has partially made up for his poor jump shot with legitimately elite slashing ability, but Mudiay is an inefficient scorer in every sense of the word.
Dec 28, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) brings the ball up the court during the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Pro: Passing Ability
One could argue that Emmanuel Mudiay is a facilitator, but that isn’t yet true. What he is, however, is a sensational passer who can get the ball from Point A to Point B as well as any young player in the NBA.
If Jeff Hornacek can help Mudiay improve his decision making, there’s reason to believe he can develop into a legitimate facilitator.
Mudiay averaged 6.5 assists per 36 minutes in 2015-16 and is at 5.3 per 36 minutes in 2016-17. His usage rate has declined by 3.1 percent, which accounts for the slight decline in production from season to season.
When Mudiay is trusted to make plays for his teammates, he possesses the size, creativity, and vision to create as well as any second-year player in the NBA.
Mudiay sees the floor well and has great zip behind his passes, which is the first step towards being a facilitator. He’s been better about taking care of the ball in 2016-17, but he still shows the brief moment of hesitation that separates the passers from the facilitators.
Mudiay’s upside as a pick and roll facilitator and transition maestro is undeniable, however, and that’s an appealing truth for a New York Knicks team that needs playmakers.
January 8, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (2) controls the ballagainst the Stanford Cardinal during the second half at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Con: Deep 2017 Draft Class
Trading for a young point guard with a world of potential is enticing, but it isn’t entirely necessary. The 2017 NBA Draft is flush with gifted point guard prospects whom the New York Knicks could acquire without having to give anything up.
It would make sense to ask for Emmanuel Mudiay if the Denver Nuggets were willing to be the third team in a Carmelo Anthony trade, but only if not much else would have to go.
The general consensus is that there are five point guards who are surefire lottery picks in 2017. Those players are Lonzo Ball of UCLA, De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky, Markelle Fultz of Washington, Frank Ntilikina of Germany, and Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State.
One could even argue that projected Top 10 pick Malik Monk of Kentucky can run point in an era where score-first players can be found playing point guard around the NBA.
Isaiah Briscoe of Kentucky, Jawun Evans of Oklahoma State, and Andrew Jones of Texas are also garnering first-round hype. Briscoe and Jones have the size that Phil Jackson covets at point guard, and Evans looks the part of a playmaker.
Thus, while it may seem as though the Knicks need to trade for a young point guard, there are an abundance of quality options to be found in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Nov 25, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) battle for the ball in the third quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Thunder won 132-129. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Pro: Defensive Potential
The New York Knicks need defensive-minded players who can help solidify what’s meant to be a stronger unit. Emmanuel Mudiay is currently a below average defender, but the potential undoubtedly exists for consistently elite execution.
If coached and developed properly, Mudiay could be the defensive stalwart at point guard whom the Knicks need to build a potential contender.
Mudiay is a 6’5″ point guard with a strong 200-pound frame and a tantalizing 6’8.5″ wingspan. He has the size, strength, and length to be a legitimately elite defensive player who creates turnovers, keeps slashers in front of him, and alters jump shots.
Mudiay hasn’t yet realized his defensive potential, but Phil Jackson loves point guards with size and the 20-year-old undeniably fits the bill.
In addition to having size, length, and strength on his side, Mudiay is an explosive leaper with impressive speed in the open court. Though not every elite athlete is an elite defender, the ability and pure upside certainly exists.
If Jeff Hornacek can get him to buy into defending with intensity, the Knicks could have an elite high-low defensive tandem with Mudiay and Kristaps Porzingis.