Is This NBA Player Any Good?: Emmanuel Mudiay

Emmanuel Mudiay has been a bête noire of mine for as long as he’s been in the league. My vicious “he’s a bust” rhetoric in 2015 about Mudiay’s -0.042 WS/48 season as a rookie is the reason Matt Moore of CBS blocked me on Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter, everything you’re about to read is written with a big tip of the hat to Nuggets maven Rafael Torres, whose tweet started my brain’s gears moving and decided the subject of this week’s Is He Any Good:

Torres’ argument rested on “Confidence/Control/Activity”, and…well, nothing gets the Pace and Space knickers in a twist quite like eye test words.

So OK. Let’s apply the bench player standard, since we know that Mudiay will never be Chris Paul out there:

Does Emmanuel Mudiay have any business playing rotation minutes on a half-decent NBA team?

For that, we go to the numbers, because war don’t lie. Or ball…ball never changes. Or…hell, I’ve been playing Fallout 4 lately, can’t you tell?

The World’s Most Baffling Slash Line

You know how some baseball players either hit a home run or they strike out? Well, Mudiay either hits a home run (as in a three) or ends up a mile out of position for a long rebound to create a fast break for the other team.

Which is how .393/.400/.762 happens.

Which would itself be fine if Moody took all his shots from three and posted a .600 eFG%, but only 23.4 percent of his tries are from out there. His eFG% totals out to a wretched .439.

Improvement Is Relative

OK, so I’m going by a microscopic sample size when I write these in November and try to focus on trends, but you take what the defense gives you.

And what it gives me is Mudiay losing his starting job and watching his stats improve. This is supposed to be a surprise? When he started, he was atrocious. Now that his competition is the other team’s second-best point guard rather than, say, Steph Curry or James Harden, of course he’s going to look better.

And yes, steady improvement is nice. But going from .404 to .428 to .439, while a nice eFG% trendline, doesn’t change the fact that .439 is terrible. Likewise having a PER go from 9.9 to 10.9 to 12.9. Nice trendline. League average is 15.

The Defense Thing

Basketball Reference can’t stand the guy defensively, assigning him a 110 Defensive Rating in a year when the league average is 106.5. His Offensive Rating, the flip side of this same argument, is 99, well below the middle.

And sure enough, that Box Plus-Minus stands at minus-4.3 in his rookie year, minus-3.7 last year, and minus-4.3 this year.

He’s a negative VORP guy in part because he can’t guard anyone. Even his defensive counting stats on a per-100-possession basis are down in every metric except rebounding, which isn’t generally the province of your point guard. His steals and blocks are down by nearly half when pace and minutes adjusted.

And The Splits, Oh, The Splits

Now yes, part of the following can rest on the shoulders of his play with the second unit when Denver’s starters are so good, but the Nuggets are 6-5 through games of Nov. 8 partially because the Mudiay-anchored reserves are so bloody horrible.

Moody’s got a minus-8.4 on-court Net Rating and a minus-15.7 on/off split. I dare say any point guard you could fish out of the G-League would put up those kind of numbers if you gave him the ball with the second unit for 23 minutes a game. This is why I was pushing so hard for the Nugs to trade for Eric Bledsoe when Bledsoe’s wife’s hairdresser got him booted from the Phoenix Suns.

Yes, it’s 11 games. But minus-15.7 is catastrophic.

THE VERDICT!

Look, I never come into these things with preconceived notions. By the time I get to the bottom of the column, you’ve seen everything I know because I’ve shown my work.

But Raffi, buddy, I envy your ability to break down game footage; it is infinity plus one times better than my own. But I have the numbers right here, and the numbers say your guy sucks.

Is Emmanuel Mudiay any good? This one’s Busted.