In their first deadline day move since 2015, the Knicks brought the Congolese point guard to New York from Denver.
The New York Knicks netted former Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay by giving up Doug McDermott only moments before the NBA’s trade deadline.
Mudiay was a part of the highly polarizing 2015 draft class and was selected seventh overall. He was the starting point guard for his first and second seasons with the Denver Nuggets, but this year, he has played in 42 games, starting in zero. In his first three years in the NBA, Mudiay has played 163 of a possible 218 games.
At 6’5″ and 200 pounds, Mudiay has size that rivals that of Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina (save the monstrous wingspan), although their approaches to basketball differ a great deal. The DRC-born NBA prospect was rumored to be an offensive prodigy in the months leading up to his draft. Unfortunately, not much of that has held up. At first glance, Mudiay appears to be a nice return for Doug McDermott, a player that arguably wasn’t allotted sufficient playing time and whose future in New York was in doubt.
Although his injury history is troublesome, he’s not afraid of contact. Mudiay may not be as quick as Russell Westbrook or John Wall, but his willingness to drive into the lane and finish in traffic is something that the Knicks could greatly use. A little offensive firepower from a young guard who’s still learning can’t hurt a team in the throes of a rebuild. That kind of scrappy play may boost Enes Kanter’s already potent offensive rebounding, and a second chance bucket is always better than a one-and-done offensive possession. Plus, Emmanuel’s dimes after a drive are something to be admired. If a coach had ever told you to put some mustard on a pass, a pass from Mudiay for the corner three was what they meant.
Mudiay lacks the defensive I.Q. that Ntilikina displays so often, but Emmanuel a firebrand, ready to disrupt the opposing team on defense and fast break opportunities. His three-point shooting has improved from previous years to a league-average 37 percent.
It’s hard to hate this trade. If he is in fact the real deal, or at least better than Ntilikina, the Knicks will see soon enough as they compete for playing time alongside Trey Burke. A second scenario could be Mudiay and Ntilikina playing next to each other. Both have the size and skills to fill the backcourt. Jeff Hornacek’s dual point guard lineups in Phoenix that saw success have loomed over him in New York, whether he has liked it or not. This time the Knicks may have a guard corps feasible for it to be successful.
What about Jarrett Jack? The starting point guard is still Hornacek’s favorite, according to the minutes distribution. Since Porzingis’ unfortunate injury, it’s become even more obvious the Knicks don’t have much of a choice in their future as the losses will soon pile up. With the reality of a tank setting in, there’s no reason for Hornacek to play Jack for double digit minutes on a nightly basis. In this case, playing a veteran point guard is the last thing he should do if he wishes to keep his job. Seven points, six assists, and three rebounds per game aren’t worth it. Truthfully, the future of his employment may be out of Hornacek’s hands already.
The Knicks have 27 games left to play in the 2017–18 season, leaving Mudiay just enough time to create chemistry with a hurt Knicks team and enough time to assert his will as the starter if his game is strong enough. Time will tell.