Potential top pick Emmanuel Mudiay out in China with sprained ankle, future there in question

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When Emmanuel Mudiay decided not to play his college ball at SMU for Larry Brown (he didn’t meet the academeic requirements) and instead decided to go play in China there were risks — scouts wondered if Mudiay would play a full season in a place with a radically different culture than he was used to. If so, his game would benefit from playing against men not boys, and he would show a level of maturity to deal with the culture shock. On the court Mudiay has done well, averaging better than 17.7 points a game, plus six assists and six rebounds a night, and he even had a triple double.

But he has sat out the last four games with an ankle sprain and now his team, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, is brining in Will Bynum to play for them at a cost of $1 million.

That has led to questions about Mudiay’s future in China, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Chinese teams are allowed only two American players on the roster, but Bynum can replace Mudiay as the teenage American star is rehabbing his injury, sources said….

It is possible that Guangdong could release Mudiay and pay him the balance of his contract, or hold onto the teenager and watch how Bynum impacts the team until Mudiay’s ankle allows him to return to the lineup. Eventually, Guangdong could make a decision on which guard to keep – and release the other. Nevertheless, it would be an immense investment to bring Bynum over on a guaranteed $1 million-plus agreement – only to use him for one or two weeks….

Mudiay has to protect his draft value, and his representatives will be exceedingly careful to make sure he doesn’t risk further injury or poor performance in China. If released, Mudiay could simply return to the United States and train in preparation to begin predraft workouts with NBA teams prior to the June draft.

Mudiay is in the top three of pretty much everybody’s draft board (DraftExpress currently has him at No. 2, behind Jahlil Okafor of Duke and ahead of Karl Towns of Kentucky). Mudiay is a 6’5” point guard who has great atheticism, has shooting range, and good court vision. The NBA has become a point guard’s league and Mudiay could set a team up for a decade or more at that position.

Because of that potential coming back to the states likely wouldn’t hurt his draft stock much if any. Still, you would think that playing games and playing well in China would enhance them more than workouts against a chair in some Florida gym.