The Denver Nuggets almost completed the comeback against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. After finding themselves down 29 points midway through the third quarter, Denver clawed all the way back to cut the deficit to four with 4:33 remaining in the fourth quarter. But the Nuggets could not get over that final hump and lost 116-111 to fall to 8-14 on the season.
After the game, the Altitude broadcast team credited head coach Michael Malone’s blowup with providing a spark. Malone, who’d apparently seen enough in the third quarter, drew two technical fouls and was thrown out of the game, which he admitted afterwards was a tactic he used to try to energize his team.
It’s true that the Nuggets went on a huge run after Malone was ejected. Malone’s blowup certainly could have played a part in the failed comeback. But it also was not a coincidence that Emmanuel Mudiay was sitting on the bench during the Nuggets’ run.
Wednesday was a terrible night for the Nuggets’ second-year point guard in a season full of them. He went 2-for-10 from the field and had a single assist in 18 minutes. Denver was outscored by 26 points in his time on the floor. About a quarter of the way into his second NBA season, Mudiay is showing no signs of growth. He’s still 20 years old, but I think it’s fair to worry about him as the Nuggets’ point guard of the future at this point.
Mudiay is one of the worst every-day players in the NBA. This season, he’s assisted 84 baskets — including just one in the last three games — and turned the ball over 65 times. He doesn’t make his teammates better, and he’s still doing stuff like dribbling the ball of his foot and throwing passes out of bounds.
Mudiay also doesn’t seem to recognize that his strength is not scoring the basketball. He’s hoisting up 12.8 shots per game, despite shooting just 34.8 percent from the field. He has the fourth-worst field-goal percentage out of any player who shoots at least 10 times per game. He takes 3.8 3-pointers a game even though he barely makes a quarter of them.
Ostensibly, Mudiay’s best skill should be scoring at the rim; he’s 6-foot-5 with a quick first step. Except those attributes aren’t translating to points…
Mudiay has the fifth-worst field-goal percentage (38.7) on shots that result from drives to the hoop of anyone with a minimum of 50 attempts, according to NBA.com. Which makes you wonder, what can he do well?
Denver’s best course of action might be to bench Mudiay if it’s serious about winning games. The Nuggets are getting outscored by more than 10 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor right now; when he’s on the bench, the Nuggets outscore opponents by nearly six points per 100 possessions.
Handing the starting job over to veteran Jameer Nelson, or even rookie Jamal Murray should make the team immediately better. You risk damaging Mudiay’s confidence even further by benching him. But we’re 90 games into his NBA career now, and he still hasn’t shown improvement. It’s time for a change.
Subscribe to Denverite’s weekly sports newsletter here.