Watching the Nuggets this year has been a gift from the basketball gods. Their 8-6 Record may not seem like much to fans of the Warriors or the Cavs, but Nuggets fans have been waiting for The Nuggets “breakout” for years now. Now, this may not be the Nuggets year to win it all, but seeing great basketball being played in the Mile High City has been insanely satisfying.
The Nuggets are not done with their pursuit of an NBA Title. Not by a long shot. Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap have been playing great, but Denver still seems thin on the Small Forward position, plenty of questions need to be answered about the young player's talents, and there’s an awkward balance at the Point Guard position lately.
Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay headline at the Point Guard spot for Denver and have been since Mudiay was drafted in 2015. With the Nuggets releasing Jameer Nelson before the start of the 2016-17 season, the young guards have more opportunity than ever to show what they got running an NBA team. Let’s take a look at how the two guards have been playing. Both have played in every game so far this year yet Murray has started all 14 games. While both are producing about the same PER this year, there are still more aspects of their game to analyze if Murray will remain the starter for the remainder of the season or if Mudiay will regain his starter role at some point.
It is important to remember that in this debatable age of “position-less” basketball that a star Point Guard is not entirely necessary to run an offense. At the moment, the best Point Guard on the roster is probably Nikola Jokic who is averaging 4.8 assists a game, the most on the Denver Nuggets roster. This is just an in-depth look at the production from both of the listed Point Guards on the Nuggets Roster.
Murray assumed the starting role this season and has started 14 of the 14 games so far this season after he started 9 games last year. As of November 14th, he is averaging 13.2 points, 2.4 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game with a PER of 13.02. Jamal is also shooting a healthy 42.1% from the field, 90.3% from the free throw line, and a jittery 28.8% from the three-point line. He has also shown plenty of great games like against Orlando when he put up a career-high 32 points on 11/11 and against Brooklyn on 10/29 when he put up 26 points and 5 assists. Jamal has to have a lot more outstanding games before he can transpire into the true star point guard the Nuggets want him to be, but he seems to be on the right track to becoming Denver’s next great scoring machine.
When Emmanuel Mudiay was drafted by The Nuggets, the team essentially handed him the keys to the franchise expecting him to emerge as a star given it was Denver’s highest draft pick in years. The fan base watched with a mix of optimism and horror as their 7th pick didn’t come onto the court and shine as much as the fans had hoped he would, including the one writing this article. Mudiay emerged as more of a multi-year project rather than an immediate NBA star. The project seems to finally be paying off as Mudiay is having his best shot percentage season, shooting a career-high 41.8% from the field and 45.5% from behind the 3-point line. Mudiay is averaging 11.6 points, 3.2 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game (all career lows) with a PER of 13.48. The career lows come at no surprise given he is only playing 23.3 minutes a night. Mudiay fits well with his spot coming off of the bench; It seems to help with his development not having the weight of the franchise on his back.
The Nuggets are on a roll and can be dangerous with either Guard running the point it seems. Murray has been handling the starting role well but obviously still needs some time to develop his game and leadership. Emmanuel Mudiay is having his best season so far of his young career despite what his numbers from years past indicate. For the time being, it seems smart for Denver to leave Murray in his role and having Mudiay lead the bench players. This may change as time goes on and the season continues to unfold itself, but The Nuggets are fortunate to have two great prospects running the Point.