As we head towards winter, much of Colorado is looking forward to snowfall and hitting the slopes for skiing. As for the Denver Nuggets though, the year is just heating up.
A 146-114 win over the New Orleans Pelicans featured six Nuggets in double figures and three above 20 points. But what stuck out most of all was its point guard play.
Finding the Starting Point Guard
Heading into a promising season, four of the team’s five starting spots were basically locks. The position up for grabs was at point guard. After being in and out of the rotation last season, Emmanuel Mudiay and his wealth of potential were back to compete for a starting job. His competition was a natural shooting guard in Jamal Murray who was able to run the point adequately at the close of the season.
After Murray won the job, it still looked like coach Mike Malone would be searching for a second point guard with a hot hand in more games than not. Mudiay’s inability to shoot consistently had hampered him from reaching his potential. In this 2017-18 season, he’s flipped that script completely.
The former 7th overall pick is being played his lowest minutes per game of his career and making the most of it. Through 15 games, Mudiay holds averages of 12.1 points, 3.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and just over 23 minutes per game. Besides the minutes, these numbers are very consistent with what he’s done over his career so far. Why has he been so impressive?
His field goal percentage sits at 43.8% right now which is over six percent higher than last year’s. His three point percentage has also reached a new realm at a scorching 47.4% as opposed to last year’s 31.5%.
Whether he keeps these percentages up remains to be seen but they’re certainly encouraging that he’s grown as a player. Jamal Murray has shown flashes of greatness many times this year as he grows into a new position this season.
Mudiay’s Production has been Great
His 3-point shooting remains to be an over-marketed part of his game as an NBA player. 30.1 percent this year and 33.4 percent in the previous season doesn’t really justify us calling him a better shooter than Mudiay.
While we wait on his college shooting range to arrive, the rest of his game is here and doing just fine.
Seeing only about 26 minutes on the court per game is largely due to Mudiay’s solid play but Murray’s still made his presence felt. He’s currently posting 14.4 points per game on 45.1% shooting and chipping in 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists as well.
Murray’s low assist rate has a lot to do with the Nuggets running most of its offense through its front court duo of Nikola Jokić and Paul Millsap. When Mudiay hits the hardwood, he’s often sharing it with the likes of Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee. Although Plumlee is a high-level passer, Faried and Plumlee are responsible for less play making in its offense.
The result of two quality point guards has been a 9-6 record so far, good for 5th in the Western Conference. There’s no reason Nuggets fans to think this record can’t be sustained. Your hopes should remain Mile High!
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