Opting to take the increasingly appealing overseas route, Emmanuel Mudiay turned pro in 2014 when he decided to take his talents to the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the CBA for a year. After originally committing to playing at SMU under NBA legendary Larry Brown, the then-18-year old decided to sign a contract in China that would amount to over $1.2 million. Despite his widely held status as one of the top guards in his class at the NCAA level, Mudiay gambled on himself and didn’t disappoint, as he impressed NBA scouts during his time abroad with flashes of star potential.
When Mudiay decided to bypass the NCAA and instantly turn pro right out of high school, his strong mental character was on full display. The NCAA offers a glamorous route to stardom for America’s highly recruited prospects that is hard to pass up. Despite this, the Congolese-born combo guard opted to uproot his life and start anew on the other side of the world. With a completely foreign language, new environment and contrasting culture among other things, Mudiay immersed himself into a situation that many teenagers would not be able to handle – and he thrived. When Buckeye D’Angelo Russell was taken second after Karl-Anthony Towns, it set off a chain reaction that allowed Mudiay to fall to the grateful Denver Nuggets at No. 7, who are looking to tear things down and rebuild.
Graphic via thesportsquotient
Standing at -5, Mudiay is listed as a point guard, although his slashing playing style resembles that of a shooting or combo guard. In 10 regular season and 2 playoff games played for Guangdong, the 19-year old managed 18 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.6 steals before losing 3-1 of the best-of-five series in the semifinals against Beijing Ducks.
Mudiay continues one of the NBA’s hottest trends of tall and athletic point guards, joining the likes of former Orange Michael Carter-Williams and fellow draftee Delon Wright. He is as good of an athlete as it gets and his elite burst helps him to easily score in transition while his strength allows him to absorb contact already. He’s showcased his ability to create plays for teammates since he was a high school recruit at Prime Prep Academy in Texas. His first step in by and far unmatched in this draft, and he uses it to break down his defender and accelerate to the rim that one day may be in the same conversation as NBA stars Russell Westbrook or John Wall. Mudiay’s ability to attack the rim with such ease opens up his entire passing game as his 5 assists per game were created through excellent drive-and-dish or pick-and-roll execution. On the other side of the ball, his size for the position and sheer athleticism proved disruptive for opposing floor generals.
Mudiay’s biggest knock comes on the offensive end, as his lack of a reliable jumper has hurt his stock. He’s going to need to keep defenses honest at the pro level to avoid defenders sagging off to limit his efficiency, as they do with John Wall. Emmanuel was also very turnover prone, averaging over 4 turnovers per 40 minutes. At the point guard position decision-making ability is a trait that does come with experience however, so expect some sloppy plays as a rookie that looks to be the new face of the franchise following Ty Lawson’s departure.
The Denver Nuggets’ fan base is in for a treat as Mudiay brings his fiery motor to the court game-in and game-out and he is 100% locked in every second on the court. Expect him to make all the hustle plays of diving for loose balls and playing scrappy right away. Denver is ushering into a new era that is headlined by their new electrifying young rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, and though it will inevitably be very bump to start, if the rewards are to pay out, he may be the best player in the draft.