New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay remains a work in progress

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: Emmanuel Mudiay #1 of the New York Knicks handles the ball against the Washington Wizards on February 14, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: Emmanuel Mudiay #1 of the New York Knicks handles the ball against the Washington Wizards on February 14, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

New York Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is an intriguing player, but the 21-year-old floor general is still a work in progress.

The New York Knicks executed a solid low-risk move worth taking by acquiring Emmanuel Mudiay. With a roster short on perimeter talent, athleticism, and youth, rolling the dice on the 6’5″ guard selected seventh overall in the 2015 NBA Draft for Doug McDermott and a future second-round pick was a no-brainer. 

Even early on it’s been clear what made Mudiay such a coveted prospect just a few years ago. The raw ingredients he brings to the table—speed and vision in the open floor and dribble penetration—are elements the Knicks’ offense has lacked.

Mudiay’s inability to bring these skills to bear consistency and efficiency saw his playing time get cut. In combination with his proclivity for turnovers, poor shot selection, and lack of defensive effort, it led to the Nuggets’ decision to move on for a minimal return.

Through his first 3 games with the Knicks Mudiay has shown why, 3 years into his career, he still very much remains a work in progress.

The Good

Mudiay isn’t on par with the league’s uber athletic freaks at point guard like Russell Westbrook or John Wall. He is, however, far more dynamic than the Knicks’ other options at point.

He has the ability to push the pace and create quality shots for teammates while the defense is still scrambling.

Of course Michael Beasley and Courtney Lee, likely in shock they received the ball so early in the possession, bricked these attempts.

Mudiay’s vision to release passes early and exploit openings before opponents get set with his long-range passing has also been refreshing.

It’s no coincidence the Knicks’ season high in fast break points came in Mudiay’s Knicks debut.

In the halfcourt, Mudiay is able to consistently get into the paint out of the pick and roll to create for others. He especially has shown a knack for whipping passes to corner shooters when defenders gravitate to the ball.

Here he gets into the paint which distracts Lance Stephenson from chasing his man for just a split second. That’s all the time Mudiay needs to make him pay.

He exposes Bojan Bogdanovic here on a nearly identical play, but Lance Thomas can’t take advantage.

At his height and weighing in at over 200 pounds, Mudiay is a massive guard. He’s made good use of that size at times to bully his way to the rim.

He takes Jodie Meeks off the bounce here. Meeks initially does well to cut off the drive, but Mudiay maintains his dribble, overpowers him, and gets the and-1.

The Bad

Unfortunately it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows since his arrival from Denver. Mudiay’s flashes of brilliance have been mixed in with a steady dose of the shortcomings which cut his time with the Nuggets short.

Most glaring are his poor shooting mechanics, particularly off the dribble. While much of the criticism of his shot has centered around the hitch at the top of his release, his poor balance and lower body hijinks look more problematic.

Rather than going straight up and down, Mudiay often propels himself forward while kicking his right leg out in front of him.

He compounds his mechanical issues with poor decisions, often shooting off the dribble early in the clock.

There’s more than enough time left on the shot clock to pull it back out and reset. Instead, Mudiay infuriates by taking a low-value shot the defense is all too happy to concede.

He also has a bad habit of forcing up poor shots after overpenetrating.

On this occasion he drives directly into Al Jefferson and seemingly thrusts the ball directly into Big Al’s hand.

And here he attacks Myles Turner in pick-and-roll, but fails to create any separation forcing him into an awful off balance fadeaway.

These are the type of bad choices which have plagued him throughout his career. Another hindrance which has reared its head in New York is his inability to convert at the rim. Mudiay is a career 49.3% finisher at the rim. He simply hasn’t exhibited very good touch or feel around the basket.

That he gets to the rim as frequently as he does is impressive. It’s difficult to create those shots, but until his finishing ability improves it will remain more valuable in theory than in practice.

Mudiay’s defensive effort would, at best, be labeled as indifferent. Despite his imposing frame and 7’0” wingspan he’s consistently rated out as an awful defender. He doesn’t use his length or show any natural instinct to get into passing lanes or poke the ball away for steals.

More concerning is his lack of desire and willingness to fight over screens.

The laziness in recovering to his man after dying on the screen is stunning, but at least he does make some type of effort on this occasion.

Here he doesn’t even bother trying and switches for no apparent reason. With his physical tools his all too frequent apathetic and ineffectual defense is unacceptable.

Time To Put it All Together

Thus far Mudiay remains a mixed bag. His performance, output and efficiency vary greatly even within the course of a game. Consistency continues to elude his grasp. On nights like his Knicks debut against Indiana it’s tepting to fall in love with the highs his natural talent can produce.

However, the follow up performances against Philadelphia and Washington are perfect demonstrations of Mudiay’s frustrating two steps forward, one step back progression. There’s certainly a quality player in there. That much has been apparent in his exceedingly short time in New York.

If he’s to reach the level commensurate with his talent he must continue to develop his skills and achieve consistency in decision making and effort.

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The Knicks will hope Emmanuel Mudiay can do so and become another long-term piece of their core.