Emmanuel Mudiay could be the steal of the 2015 NBA Draft


We don't know yet how good Emmanuel Mudiay can be. All we've seen so far is his work in high school, overseas and the NBA Summer League. Capping a player's potential off limited information — especially when his last full season was played against the inconsistent competition of the Chinese Basketball Association — is risky.

But standing pat on “I don't know yet” is no fun, especially when we're talking about a player as fun and talented as Mudiay.

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A graduate of Prime Prep Academy in Dallas, Mudiay was originally slated to play for Larry Brown at SMU. At the time, some saw him as a potential No. 1 overall pick down the line. This could have been cemented by playing a year in college. Instead, he decided to take a risk and spend a year overseas, signing a one-year deal with Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Playing overseas instead of college makes sense. You collect a paycheck right away while still playing a high level of competition. Still, it makes it harder for fans and even scouts to see you play, especially in person. Mudiay was injured midseason, and saved his best stretch of play for the end of the Chinese season, when few scouts were watching him in person.

Still, he showed flashes in China, enough to be picked 7th overall by the Nuggets in last month's draft. This gave Mudiay a chance to show people why he was originally seen as top pick material. His new stage: the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

He took the chance and ran with it. He compiled 48 points and 23 assists through 4 games of action and looked more like a pro than several of the second-year guys on the floor.

And it wasn't so much the stats he put up that impressed; it was the grace to which can already play with at 19. He already knows how to use his stel

lar ball handling to create space and get a good shot away. The kicker with Mudiay, though, is that the shot doesn't have to come from him. He showed unselfishness last season in China, and reaffirmed that skill during his time in Vegas. 

What may be forgotten amid all this is Mudiay was completing NBA veteran-quality passes to guys he's never practiced with before. Imagine when he develops chemistry with Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and others after a few months of practices. Things could get fun in Denver fast.

But his unselfishness only becomes an ultra-destructive weapon if he's able to score himself. That should not be a problem. Not only is he able to get to the rim, but he also showed lots of ability from mid-range, especially in pull-up situations, and scored off the pick and roll fairly well. But again, his ability to create space is where he was the most threatening, especially when he was scoring the ball. He's so quick with the ball, a simple crossover was all he needed to get to the hoop. At times, it made the opposing defense look bad, even if they were in the right spot at the time. 


Defensively, there are still some kinks to work out, but his athleticism and quickness give him an edge going forward. He even showed some of that potential in Vegas when he blocked at shot at the rim early on. 

But the Nuggets knew they were drafting for potential when they selected Mudiay with the 7th pick. It's very possible — likely, even — that he would have gone higher had he taken the college route. Even with scouting as advanced as it is, it's hard to gauge the true value of a teenager playing pro ball in China.

How good can Mudiay become? Sure, it's a tough call to make this early, especially when the subject is 19 years old. But everything he's done and everywhere he's gone has lead most to believe he's going to be special.