Nuggets’ Emmanuel Mudiay draws motivation from Lakers passing him on NBA Draft

WEST CHESTER — It took Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay to wait through six draft selections before he finally heard NBA Commissioner Adam Silver call his name. But the unsettling feeling for Mudiay happened way before Denver selected him seventh overall. It happened when the Lakers used their No. 2 pick on D’Angelo Russell.

Hence, Mudiay acknowledged the recent draft proceedings provides more than just a media-driven storyline for when the Lakers (0-3) host the Nuggets (1-2) tonight at Staples Center.

“They passed up on me; that’s definitely a motivation,” Mudiay told Los Angeles News Group after morning shootaround at West Chester High School. “They took another point guard ahead of me. I’m a point guard. So I guess they saw something in [Russell] that they didn’t see in me.”

Lakers coach Byron Scott offered an honest assessment following Monday’s practice on what he didn’t see in Mudiay during two pre-draft workouts in Los Angeles.

“I didn’t think he was a true point guard,” Scott said of Mudiay. “I didn’t think he was a guy who made great decisions when we saw him and had him here. I thought that was something he would have to learn to do to run that position.”

Scott still predicted Mudiay “was going to be pretty good” and described him as “pretty athletic” with a “little edge.” But as a reporter relayed Scott’s assessment to Mudiay, the Nuggets’ rookie guard looked down at the ground as he listened intently to every word.

“That’s another human’s opinion,” Mudiay said. “I’m not worried about him. I just have to worry about what I do and worry about the Denver Nuggets.”

It remains too small of a sample size to provide any definitive conclusions regarding the Russell-Mudiay comparisons. But so far, Mudiay has produced more than Russell per game in points (12.7, 9.7) and assists (5.3, 1.7). But shooting accuracy has become an area of weakness for both Russell (36.7 percent) and Mudiay (33.3 percent). Mudiay also has averaged 6.3 turnovers per game, more than the 1.7 turnovers Russell has averaged per contest.

That prompted Denver coach Mike Malone to describe Mudiay as “somewhat inconsistent.” Malone added that Mudiay has shown “flashes of his potential” and “other flashes where he’s a 19-year-old rookie who didn’t play in college.” Mudiay withdrew his commitment at Southern Methodist University and played for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. There, he averaged 7.7 points on 54.5-percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

“We still know he’s going to be a hell of basketball player because of how hard he works, how much he cares and the size, strength and physical tools that he has,” Malone said of Mudiay. “Tonight, hopefully he’ll have another opportunity to go against another point guard who was taken before him and show why he’s our point guard of the future.”

Malone then quickly downplayed that storyline.

“I don’t think Emmanuel cares who he is playing against,” Malone said. “He just wants to win.”

Mudiay showed that by sounding disinterested in talking about his history playing against Russell in the AAU circuit. When asked if he has had any relationship with Russell since then, Mudiay said, “Nah, not at all.”

“That’s the past. We’re two different players now,” Mudiay said. “I’m a different player. He’s a different player. AAU is over with. Now we’re with the big dogs.”

Now that he is, Mudiay focused on other things after describing his play as only “okay.” He attributed his high volume of turnovers toward needing “to be more careful with the ball.” Mudiay maintained he feels “confident in my shot” despite his poor shooting percentage. Mudiay expressed the want to drive to the basket more once he organizes the offense better to create more floor spacing.

“I cant let that get to me,” Mudiay said. “I have to get aggressive. I have to get back to playing myself.”

All of which could help Mussiay provide the Lakers with a stronger rebuttal.

RELATED:

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NBA experts mixed on Kobe Bryant, Lakers’ playoff chances

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

  • Sam

    Lakers should’ve passed on Russell too… Okafor will make them regret not drafting him…

    • Shano Kang

      Totally agree

    • Hollowgramz

      Na Russell’s gonna be better in time

      • Sam

        As a Laker fan I hope so but I’ve never liked Russell and I loved Okafor. If we do keep next years first rounder I hope we get Simmons to make up for passing up Okafor.

        • LegendInMyMind

          If they keep playing like this, a Top 3 selection is very achievable…

    • LegendInMyMind

      Okafor might…but he’s still defensively lacking. That’s never going away. Would’ve been an odd pairing with Julius Randle. Gonna take the Lakers a long time to get good anyway. I’m a little concerned about Russell’s athleticism more than anything right now. But he’s getting no playing time.

  • RealTalk202

    Okafor is garbage. Towns going to be way better…we did the right thing getting russell although I wish he’d play with more of an edge or fire to him… We needed a guard period

    • Sam

      We have a guard who is the future in Clarkson…All Rookie 1st Team who just dropped 30 points… Point Guards are a dime a dozen. Quality centers are rare…should’ve given Okafor a chance. Could’ve easily signed a guard or drafted one with the other picks. This season is a disaster though so we better draft Simmons or Skal as the center.

      • LegendInMyMind

        The big man we need to build around is Randle. Randle and Okafor would be an odd pairing… If LA has the opportunity, they do need to bring Ben Simmons on. Can’t pass him up but I don’t think they will have the chance. I think they need to commit to building around Randle, Clarkson, and Russell. Put those three in the best position to succeed, tailor the offense to them, and then let this young team grow together around that core.

        But it’s the Lakers, so they’ll make a trade or a big signing or something… Probably…

        • Sam

          Damn why do you have to comment 3 times? You could’ve easily combined all your ideas in one comment?

    • LegendInMyMind

      Okafor’s not garbage, he’s just an incomplete player. His offense is light years ahead of the curve, but he’s a flat footed defender. And he may never be an impact rebounder. Playing the C position, those are two holes.

      Regarding Russell, he needs more playing time, and he needs a larger role as the primary ball handler. Finding the balance between Russell, Clarkson, Williams, Young, and Kobe was always going to be a challenge. And then they gotta keep Randle happy down low. I think they should’ve shed Young after getting Williams, and Kobe needs to complete his transition into a spot-up shooter (which is going to require knocking down shots).