Emmanuel and Jusuf Nurkic were once seen at the cornerstones of the Denver Nuggets. Now, the future lies with Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.
Jusuf Nurkic and Emmanuel Mudiay.
Once seen as young core building blocks for a Nuggets team in transition, now Nurkic is in Portland and Mudiay has gone from “New Era” billboards all around Denver to out of the rotation in a year and a half. What went so wrong (or so right depending on your point of view) for 2 high 1st round picks to be shipped To Portland and out of the rotation.
I won’t bore you with analytics jargon. Mudiay can’s shoot to save his life. He is about as inconsistent a 3 point shooter you will find out of someone viewed at one time as a franchise type corner-stone.
Injuries have also not been kind to Mudiay. His most recent back injury is what prompted Denver’s latest most successful lineup featuring veteran Jameer Nelson running the point with rookie Jamal Murray as his back up.
Both Nelson and Murray bring different skill sets to the table, the one constant however is their ability to hit 3’s. The one thing old head basketball fans and new generation analytic fans can agree on is that 3 points is worth more than 2. How ever long that fact hold true, the NBA’s obsession with the 3 point shot will only grow as the game evolves. If you desire a free-flowing offense with players hitting open shots, you must have 3 point shooters. Nelson, Murray, Gallinari, Chandler, Arthur, Jokic, and Harris can all hit at least an open 3. It’s not surprising that Denver’s best lineup, in my opinion, is listed above.
Denver can go small or big while not jeopardizing 3 point shooting. All that holds true as long as Mudiay is out of the lineup. Mudiay is a great athlete with great size. His slashing ability is above average.
I just feel like he was passed up by circumstances. Nuggets coach Mike Malone spoke on the situation before a late February Memphis game.
"“It’s not easy for him. I didn’t expect it to be easy for Emmanuel. That’s probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in terms of what guards I’m going to go with. Emmanuel was starting for us for a year and a half, so for him to go from starter to sort of out of the rotation is a lot to handle for a young man,” Malone said before the game against Memphis."
Everyone around him developed to the point that even heading into 2017-18, you can’t see Mudiay cracking the starting lineup or even top 7 slots. Highly uncommon for a top 10 pick, especially with players Denver selects. Denver has gotten great value from all their picks since 2014. One of those value picks was Jusuf Nurkic.
Nurkic seemed like a can’t miss 7 footer with some skill. It all came true. Only problem was there was a 2nd rounder named Nikola Jokic who was more skilled and developing at a breakneck pace.
Nurkic, in my opinion, will flourish with Lillard in Portland. It just didn’t work out with the twin towers in Denver with Jokic. Nurkic and a 1st were flipped for versatile forward Mason Plumlee (the best of the 568 Plumlee brothers). The addition of Plumlee and the lineup Malone crafted following the Mudiay injury has Denver primed for the 8th seed and return to the playoffs.
The moral of the story is that regardless of how much potential you leave draft night with, it has to materialize on the court.
Either way Denver comes out on top because of superb coaching and development as well as great international scouting. Mudiay may still be a player in this league, but with his skill set and Denver’s new core I just don’t see it here.
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Denver has another high pick coming this year with Beasley, a rookie SG, not even able to stay out of the D League mainly because of roster space. How much longer can Denver get nothing out of Mudiay? Could they package him in an off-season deal? Paul George? Jimmy Butler? Fans can hope.
One thing that certain, the future is bright for this Nuggets squad. The “New Era” billboards were spot on, it is a new era. The problem is that the players it will revolve around are Named Jokic, Harris and Murray not Mudiay and Nurkic, and Denver fans should be very excited.
If Denver gets the 8th seed they would likely face the Golden State Warriors, a team that once upon a time used a playoff match up with Denver to springboard themselves onto the national stage.
Maybe Denver can pull of the upset and return the favor to the Warriors in April. Ironically enough, both Denver and Golden State know a thing or to about winning an 8-1 match up.