There are going to be a lot of good debates going around this preseason about who to draft and where. One of the debates I have already heard getting tossed around quite a bit is which rookie point guard you should draft first; D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay?
I think it’s clear that both of these point guards have very bright futures in the NBA and especially in fantasy leagues with both of them having the ability to do a little bit of everything. The question is which one make the biggest impact as a rookie and therefore which one should you draft first.
Rotoprofessor writers Will Overton and Ray Kuhn come down on different sides of this debate and are going to give you their arguments for each side. Give it a read and decide for yourself which rookie you trust more on your fantasy squad…
Ray Kuhn Argues For D’Angelo Russell
There may not be much originality here as D’Angelo Russell was drafted first, but he will have a better fantasy debut than Emmanuel Mudiay. Both had prolific amateur careers, and both will begin their pro careers as their team’s starting point guards, but that is where the similarities end.
Russell looked polished last season with Ohio State and had a successful freshman campaign playing deep into the NCAA tournament. Mudiay on the other hand had flashes of success in China, but dealt with injuries for the majority of the season. While Mudiay may be more talented, the early indication is that Russell’s game translates better to the NBA. Mudiay gets credit for being a play maker, but at this point I see more inconsistencies in his game than Russell’s. In his pre-season debut Mudiay took 18 shots and only made five of them. To be fair, Russell was 2-8 shooting, but again it is just one game.In college last year, Russell showed that he can do it all averaging 19.3 points, 5.0 assists, and 5.7 rebounds, but to expect a direct repeat would be foolhardy.
However, you have to like the completeness to Russell’s game. While both rookies will be joining teams in the midst of rebuild, Russell’s situation should be a little more steady. Russell will be saving the back court with Kobe Bryant, who we know dominates the shot count, and also Jordan Clarkson who does the same. But that also means that Russell is in perfect position to be a facilitator. And the fact that Russell is already receiving praise from Bryant is a good thing.
“I don’t understand why you guys can’t figure this out,” he joked with reporters. “I do not like setting up the offense. I hate it. (Former Lakers coach) Phil (Jackson) made me do it years ago, and I had to learn how to do it years ago to set up the triangle. I haven’t played with point guards who were playmakers at heart, and D’Angelo is a ridiculous playmaker, man.
Of course this still pre-season rhetoric, but it certainly bodes well for Russell. Russell has the better track record and we got a good preview of what he can do last season. Ultimately, Mudiay has the long term upside, but Russell makes for the better rookie.
Will Overton Argues For Emmanuel Mudiay
Let’s just get it clear right off the bat that I think both of these guys have bright futures in the NBA and in fantasy basketball. Now that’s I’ve cleared that up, let me state that I firmly believe that Mudiay is going to have the better rookie season and should be considered one of the leading candidates for rookie of the year.
I’m a big believer in opportunity breeding success for rookies and I love the situation that Mudiay is in with the Nuggets. Mudiay will walk right in as the starting point guard of this team and have complete control of the offense right from the start. Mudiay should be given plenty of chances to create for himself and others. And while this may lead to a not so great shooting percentage, it should lead to a very healthy amount of points and assists. Meanwhile it does look like Russell will be a starter in LA, but he’ll be starting alongside Jordan Clarkson who started at the point last season and Kobe Bryant who isn’t going to just give up control of this offense to a rookie. Then there is still Lou Williams and Nick Young on the bench fighting for minutes. For Mudiay, his biggest competition for minutes is Jameer Nelson. I think Mudiay could push 33 – 34 minutes as a rookie while Russell is more likely to end up around 27 in my opinion.
Mudiay gets knocked a bit by some because he didn’t play college ball in America, but instead opted to go to China and play. I don’t think the competition in China is as good as elite level college ball, but we’ve seen the international route work with Brandon Jennings before and it can work again here. He didn’t play in college, but he has an NBA ready build and an NBA ready game and not going to college doesn’t change that.
Mudiay also gets a rap as a bad shooter, which is fair, but he’s spent a lot of time working on it and his offensive game isn’t reliant on the three ball. Mudiay can get to the lane and score that way and he’s a playmaking guard with tremendous athleticism and court vision. The shot will come in time, but I think the quantity of minutes he gets as a rookie leads to a lot of boards, a lot of assists and a fair amount of points despite the lack of a shot. Mudiay is the better rookie and I think he’s only going to keep getting better as the years go on.