The triangle offense (at least as Phil Jackson runs it) does not require a strong, traditional, ball-in-his-hands point guard. Guys who are high IQ players and knock-down shooters can thrive in that role — Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, etc. — but players like Gary Payton chaffed in the system.
Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay has been one of the breakout stars of Summer League. He’s a pass-first point guard who has shown an ability to get into the lane and then find open players. He’s already got an NBA body and knows how to use that physicality. Most importantly, he plays under control and the game doesn’t move too fast for him — he looks like an NBA veteran out there.
Before the draft there was a lot of talk about Mudiay being Phil Jackson’s choice for the Knicks at the No. 4 pick, then they would plug him into the triangle. Mudiay is happy that is not the case, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Nuggets rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay told confidants after the draft he was, in retrospect, happy the Knicks passed on him at No. 4, as he was unsure he would have been a good fit for the triangle. Despite public comments to the contrary that he felt team president Phil Jackson could “make me a star,’’ Mudiay said he felt he was a better match in a more freewheeling Denver offense, according to sources.
This shouldn’t be a huge shock. Point guards like freedom and the ball in their hands and that is what Denver intentionally gave Mudiay at Summer League.
“The first thing you see is he is a true point guard…” Denver Nuggets Summer League coach Micah Nori told PBT. “Guys are going to love to play with him, they are going to continue to run for him because he is a pass-first point guard…. We’ve put the ball in his hands and given him a lot of freedom, and there’s good reason for that.”
What’s more, with the trade of Ty Lawson to Houston, Denver is going to give Mudiay the ball and a lot of freedom come the regular season, too. That will mean some hard lessons (and plenty of losses) in Denver, but Mudiay will grow quickly from it.
Knicks fans should be happy, however, with what Jackson chose to do in the draft.
Big man Kristaps Porzingis impressed — he looked like he can be just as talented and impactful as Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor in a few years. Porzingis is a project and he needs to put on weight to start, but you can see a smooth, high IQ game. He can score or pass to carve up a defense, plus he has shooting range out to the arc but can play inside as well.
Plus, the Knicks drafted Jerian Grant out of Notre Dame, and he has been one of the great surprises out of Summer League, a fantastic passer and floor general. He can step in this season and play some point for the Knicks in the triangle.
“We really enjoy having his playmaking out there, his vision, his comfort level with handling the basketball,” Knicks head coach Derek Fisher said of Grant’s performance in Las Vegas. “That’s one of the things that really excited us when we drafted him at the number we did (No. 19, a trade with the Wizards) because of that ability. To play the guard in our system, both guards need to be able to make plays, and Jerian gives us a little versatility that way, where he and Langston (Galloway) can play together, he can play with Jose (Calderon), a lot of different combinations we can put out there.”