As crazy as it may sound, it may be for the best if the Philadelphia 76ers don’t end up being the final team announced on the night of the NBA Draft Lottery. If general manager Sam Hinkie were to see the No. 1 overall pick finally fall into his lap this summer, the decision on who to take with that pick would seemingly be a no-brainer with Duke’s freshman big man, Jahlil Okafor, being in a class of his own as the clear-cut favorite to be the first called on draft night. Taking Okafor would all-but guarantee either Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid would be on their way out of town, but there is a guy who is arguably the only other elite talent available and he could be a much better fit for the rebuilding Sixers.
Emmanuel Mudiay is a name you should be familier with by now, and for good reason.
Coming out of high school, Mudiay was being deemed as Westbrook 2.0 – which was a slightly unfair comparison – due to his electric play style and tremendous athleticism from the point guard position. In the 10 games he’s played in China with the Guangdong Tigers, Mudiay has compiled an impressive stat line with 17.7 points per game, along with six rebounds and 5.9 assists a night. Even more impressive, and something that will certainly catch the upside-driven eye of Hinkie is Mudiay’s comfort and ability to thrive in the fast break, which happens to be the offensive culture Brett Brown is pushing in Philly.
The open court is where Mudiay’s skill is most apparent, as he’s a phenomenal finisher around the rim and does a nice job of finding his teammates in the right spots, which he did on 32.85 percent of his touches for Guangdong.
There’s no questioning his overall impact on offense, and although it may be unfair to try and announce Mudiay as the second coming of Russell Westbrook, there shouldn’t be any doubt as to how bright of a future the 18-year-old can have once he laces up in the NBA.
But now for the questions and concerns surrounding Mudiay, just as there is with every highly touted NBA prospect.
After going down with a ankle injury in late November, the hype surrounding Mudiay as vastly quieted as he’s spent time rehabbing, although, his professional career in China may likely be done so he can be expected to continue flying under the radar until right around the draft.
But with this time-out comes the lack of an opportunity to continue making strides towards his weaknesses. Just as you could expect from someone of his age and experience level of only 10 games beyond high school, there are some glaring holes in his game.
Although Mudiay was shooting a solid .497 percent from the field with Guangdong, his numbers from deep and the charity stripe are both far from impressive. Mudiay shot 9-30 from deep overseas, and those are some numbers that don’t display just how bad of a shooter he is from the perimeter, which comes as a result of the 6-5 guard releasing his jumpers on the way down. That’s simply poor shooting form. But he shot a horrid 58 percent from the free throw line in his 10 games with Guangdong. That’s not too much better than the 51 percent free throw shooting of Noel, which is an even bigger issue with Mudiay being a scoring guard.
But most concerning of all is his apparent disinterest in playing defense. Brown has built this current Sixers team around defense, which is expected to be the foundation that a championship team in Philly will be built upon. A lack of effort on defense isn’t something you want to see from a prospect you plan on taking as key piece in your rebuild on a defensive team, but at 18, there’s plenty of time to still coach him into some defensive talent.
And then, of course, there’s the point guard title on Mudiay that would stir up even more trade rumors surrounding the Sixers’ current floor general, Michael Carter-Williams. The second-year guard has seen his share of struggles, particularly with his shooting and ball security, but I think with the open court, fast-paced style the Sixers like to run, having an extra ball handler out there would make the life of MCW and the rest of the offensively-limited Sixers easier.
If any one objects to that, please tell me why JaKarr Sampson or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute should ever be able to bring the ball up the court and call plays?
Unfortunately for the Sixers, there isn’t really a star player in the upcoming draft that wouldn’t cause some extra competition for minutes at a position that’s already occupied. But of everyone available, Mudiay is the best option. You can never have enough explosive scorers who can find their teammates just as efficiently.