Over the next few weeks, the BSN Nuggets staff will review the Nuggets season, player-by-player. We’ll look at their performance from 2015-16 and forecast what type of impact they’ll make next season.
Reflecting on 2015-16
Taken with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, Emmanuel Mudiay came to Denver with the entire city's hopes on his back. Billed as the spearhead of the "New Day" movement, Mudiay signaled a new chapter in Nuggets history and a breath of fresh air from last season's torturous end.
The rookie showed steady improvement throughout the season across the board. The biggest concern about Mudiay coming into the league was his jumper, which improved gradually throughout the year.
Mudiay put in countless hours with player development coach Dee Brown, tirelessly working on his shot during practice, off-days and approximately two hours before every game when Mudiay would usually be the first player out for warmups from both teams. The effort showed as Mudiay shot 36.4 percent from 3-point range on a healthy 4.2 attempts per game after the All-Star break, up from the 27.2 percent he shot over the first half of the season.
Not only did it seem like Mudiay was thinking through his mechanics of his shot every time he hoisted the ball towards the hoop, but he was often off-balance which contributed to his inconsistencies. His feet moved forward, his upper body leaned backward and he lacked the use of his off-hand to guide the ball at times.
His release is now quicker and more compact, his body is balanced and it's apparent he's committed to a more consistent shooting form. Sometimes Mudiay reverts back to bad habits, which is going to happen with a 20-year-old who's never received this quality of coaching before, but the signs that his shot will look better in years to come are there.
There's a noticeable difference between his form from earlier in the year to now.
Hesitation is the bane of shooters and fortunately, Mudiay was not gun shy despite his reputation of a broken jumper. His improvement during the season combined with an entire off-season ahead of him to hone his jumper bodes well for his progression.
Mudiay was encouraged to stay aggressive and in attack mode throughout the season but he truly blossomed after Denver's leading scorer, Danilo Gallinari, went down for the season with a right ankle injury in February.
"I always felt like I had to get him involved," Mudiay said of Gallinari. "When he went out that was when I was like, 'I gotta start scoring.'"
From March through the end of the season, Mudiay answered the call to the tune of 16.5 points, 4.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. He showed the aggression that coach Michael Malone envisioned when Denver drafted Mudiay and played with incredible poise, rarely found in such a young player.
In just a single season, Mudiay has already given fans many moments to remember in what looks the beginning of a phenomenal career.
Final report card grade: B+
[caption id="attachment_45338" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Mudiay is just one of many draft picks from a potentially historic 2015 class who have shown flashes of brilliance. Credit: Getty Images[/caption]
Looking ahead to 2016-17
"Players are made in the offseason," has already become Malone's battle cry for the summer as he's sent a message to his players that their development doesn't stop when the season ends.
Besides continuing to work on his jumper, Mudiay would benefit greatly from tightening up his ball-handling in an effort to cut down on unforced turnovers. When the team can't make shots at an elite rate, every possession becomes all the more important in an attempt to compensate for inefficiency with sheer volume.
Mudiay is a bull at 6-foot-5, 200-pounds. He can be a terror to deal with driving to the hoop and has the frame to wear down opposing guards with his physicality. Improving his finishing around the rim, especially through contact should be a top priority this off-season.
Fans should be grateful that Mudiay ended up in Denver. He's a mature leader, whose voice will become stronger and stronger over the course of his career. As Mudiay's game matures, so will the Nuggets, as they set their sights on the lofty goal of playoffs next season.
It's time to see whether or not he can reach the heights that Nuggets fans dreamed of when he got drafted.