With the first two picks of the draft set to be frontcourt players, the next two picks are again a toss-up between two talented point guards. Even if both D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay play the same position, their games are opposites—each with their own unique set of skills.
Emmanuel Mudiay is the type of point guard a scientist would create inside a laboratory. At 6’5 weighing a little of 200 pounds, he is a freak of nature with his speed, strength, and athleticism with scouts comparing his ceiling to that of Washington Wizards’ John Wall. His height and strength allow him to take advantage over small point guards while his speed—especially in transition—is deadly and excels in finishing the break. He can also break down the defense one-on-one and he also has the skill to dish to open shooters.
However, in spite of Mudiay’s physical gifts, there is concern over how to properly evaluate him. Mudiay skipped playing in college this season and opted to play for the Guandong Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. Even if he did excel—and displayed flashes of brilliance—the competition is weaker compared to what he would have faced in the United States. Mudiay’s jump shot is also a concern in terms of consistency but team’s say that it isn’t broke.
If Mudiay has long been in the radar of NBA teams—and could have been the top overall prospect if not for his inconsistent jump shot—D’Angelo Russell’s ascent was unexpected. The 6’5 combo guard out of Ohio State has captivated the basketball world with his sweet shooting stroke as well as his craftiness with the basketball. Even if Russell wasn’t a traditional point guard before college, he has a slick handle with impressive passing instincts which allow him to play the point in the assocation. His poise and maturity with the ball make him a very deadly on-the-ball threat.
In spite of Russell’s talent, his lack of athleticism gives him a lesser margin of error when he wants to score the basketball and attack the rim. His jump shot should be dead on accurate because he lacks the ability to create separation for his shots even if he has shown ability to nail difficult and contested jump shots. He also struggles finishing around the rim again as a product of his lack of athleticism.
With the Philadelphia 76ers making this pick, this is kind of situation they foresaw when they traded former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. The team wasn’t convinced with Carter-Williams’ upside and banked on securing either one of these two talented players. Even if Mudiay would be the more obvious choice with his game-changing speed, there is something about Russell’s game which appeals to a lot of teams. It’s been said that the Sixers favor a player with a great outside shot and maybe Russell is the kind of floor general the team needs—a mature and poise leader who can help the team take the next step towards competency.