By John Schmeelk
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The NBA draft is less than a month away, and with the Knicks picking fourth they’ll have a number of options available to them. Over the next four weeks, we’ll take a look at the 10 players that could come into play for Phil Jackson if he stays put or trades down.
Emmanuel Mudiay – Point guard, 1 year pro ball in CBA (China), 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, 19 years old
*Ranked as the 5th best high school recruit in 2014 by ESPN
CBA Stats: 17.7 points, 6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 30 percent 3-pt, 58.1 percent FT
Mudiay is the real man of mystery in this year’s draft class. He committed to play basketball at SMU under Larry Brown, but chose to withdraw to play in China. It is hard to blame the kid for taking the million dollar-plus salary and endorsement money from Under Armour that was on the table to help his family rather than waiting a year. He played in only 10 games in the CBA before hurting his ankle. He returned for two playoff games at the end of the season, but there was some obvious rust. There are only 12 games worth of tape to look at when you decide what type of player you are getting with him.
What we know he can do: Mudiay is your modern day athletic, scoring point guard. He runs the pick and roll well, and can get to the rim and finish well. He passes well out of the screen and roll and shows good court vision. He runs the floor and is unselfish on the fast break, finding open teammates going to the hoop or spotting up behind the arc. He is not a ball hog, and doesn’t get stuck playing with his head down too often. He is NOT on the same level athletically as Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose, as some people have indicated, but he is certainly able to use his size, quickness, and speed to get to penetrate and make plays. He is an excellent rebounder for his size. Brown swears by the kid and regularly raves about him.
What we think he might do someday: He has the physical ability to defend and showed he can stay in front of opponents on the perimeter. With his quick feet, length (6-8-plus wingspan) and strength, he can play the pick and roll well by going over or under screens. He has the instincts to play passing lanes. The problem, like with most young players defensively, has been consistency. His effort hasn’t always there as he was often caught napping playing off the ball. The potential is there for him to be a plus perimeter defender, if he wants it.
What we are worried about: The jumper. He is not a very good shooter yet, converting just 30 percent from 3-point range, and 58 percent from the free-throw line. His mechanics are inconsistent. He can shoot off the dribble, but doesn’t make enough of them. If his jump shot doesn’t improve, defenders can play off of him, making it far more difficult for him to penetrate and create scoring opportunities for himself and teammates.
I also have concern about the competition in the CBA. This is a league where Stephon Marbury, who was barely a good enough backup in the NBA five years ago, dominates at age 38, and Will Bynum averages 22 points per game. In the two CBA playoff games he played in, he had issues getting around and scoring on a 6-9 small forward defending him. It was his first time playing in months coming off an ankle injury, but it was still concerning to observe. He looked better athletically in his 10 regular season games.
Off the court: There were rumors his decision not to go to SMU had more to do with academic or eligibility issues but his camp and the school deny that. There is some smoke around him off the court, but no real signs of fire. Teammates that were with him in China speak well of his work ethic and attitude.
Buzz: He did not attend the combine but recent reports say he will work out for the Lakers, Knicks and Sixers. His workouts could have big impact on where he winds up on draft night.
Floor: Penetrating but poor shooting point guard that shoots for a low percentage.
Ceiling: Prime years version of Deron Williams.
Fit on the Knicks: The triangle doesn’t tend to accommodate a ball dominant play-making point guard that thrives in the pick and roll, but Phil Jackson has incorporated talented guards into his system before (ever heard of two guys names Jordan or Kobe?) The Knicks certainly need a player that can penetrate, and create shots in the paint. Would Carmelo defer to a rookie point guard? Can Mudiay spread the floor well enough when Melo has the ball in his hand? These are all fair questions.
How Do The Knicks Get Him: The only way he isn’t there when the Knicks pick is if the Lakers jump on him or D’Angelo Russell with the second pick. If Russell goes at 2, there’s a decent shot the Sixers pass on Jahlil Okafor at 3 and pick Mudiay instead.
Prediction: He just doesn’t seem like a Phil Jackson pick to me. He should and will be in the mix for the Knicks at 4, but there might be too many questions and unknowns for them to ultimately pull the trigger. My early guess is the Knicks will pass on him.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Russell participated in a workout on Monday. Some notes:
* Towns showed off that jumper we talked about in his profile, at one point hitting 11 of 13 from NBA 3-point range.
* WCS (Cauley-Stein) showed off a decent mid-range jump shot. Just be careful putting too much stock in a workout. I used to see Tyson Chandler look like a great mid-range shooter in warm-ups all the time. More on WCS in an upcoming profile.
* Russell had a better-than-expected vertical leap, making the chances he falls to the Knicks even slimmer.
Follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk