One of the New York Knicks more interesting guards coming into the start of the season, a “breakout” year left more questions than answers looking ahead to free agency.
The New York Knicks came into the 2018-19 season with a new reputation as an “island of lost toys” for former lottery picks that had not worked out for their original teams. Out of all of the players that the Knicks gave a chance at redemption to this season, Emmanuel Mudiay’s performance this past season was the most difficult to assess.
On the surface Mudiay had a career year in 2018-19, notching multiple 20-plus and 30-plus point performances and at times carrying the Knicks to victory in tight games. It was clear early this season that he had earned his way into Coach David Fizdale’s starting lineup, starting more games than any other guard during 2018-19, and the most starts since his rookie season in Denver.
Digging a little deeper, the reality of this “career rejuvenation” looks a little worse for wear.
On an average of 27.2 minutes of play this season, Mudiay averaged the following stat-line: 14.8 points, 3.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 2.4 turnovers. Looking purely at the stats, the image of a scoring guard with some ability to distribute comes to mind.
However, compare his 2018-19 stat-line to his 2015-16 rookie season for the Denver Nuggets: on 30.4 minutes of play he averaged 12.8 points, 5.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1 steal and 2.5 turnovers.
With a difference of only 3.2 minutes of play, Mudiay barely outperformed his rookie season numbers, and even underperformed in some categories. It’s clear that this past season was less of a breakout year for Mudiay and more of rebound.
Looking deeper into the advanced metrics, Mudiay was clearly a more confident scorer around the basket in 2018-19. Compared to his career averages with Denver, his overall field goal percentage during the 2018-19 season went up from 35.5 percent to 44.6 percent, with the majority of his shots coming from around the rim and within 16 feet of the basket.
But for a guard who came into the league with a reputation as a strong finisher around the rim, it seems the 2018-19 season was the first year Mudiay lived up to his rookie reputation. It’s unfortunate that this growth came at a time when the importance of outside shooting from the guard positions has grown exponentially in recent seasons. Looking at the stats, Mudiay’s shooting from outside has been streaky at best in 2018-19.
While a cursory glance at his stats would show that Mudiay has always hovered at around 32 percent shooting from deep, what becomes clear looking deeper is that Emmanuel Mudiay is best used sparingly from outside. Averaging only 3.6 three-point attempts this year, Mudiay was inconsistent shooting from behind the arc, especially if asked to take more than two shots a game.
Mudiay’s 2018-19 season was filled with ups and downs. While he was a hero for the Knicks on some nights, putting in spirited performances and looking like a genuine starting-caliber guard in certain games, his playstyle has not evolved overall from his first year in the league to his fourth.
While the Knicks are looking to develop a young core of players ahead of this summer’s draft and free agency period, with an already crowded backcourt Mudiay may be a better option to pass on than invest the team’s future in, even as a back-up player.