With the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected point guard D'Angelo Russell of Ohio State.
Another point guard who had at one point been higher on most draft boards, Emmanuel Mudiay (who played that season before in China), was worked out by the Lakers, but they liked what they saw in Russell better. Mudiay fell to the Denver Nuggets at No. 7. Tuesday night the Nuggets take on the Lakers in L.A.
Lakers coach Byron Scott was asked Tuesday why the Lakers passed on Mudiay, and while he said he thought Mudiay would be “pretty good,” here is the heart of his response, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
“I didn’t think he was a true point guard,” Scott said of Mudiay. “I didn’t think he was a guy who made great decisions when we saw him and had him here. I thought that was something he would have to learn to do to run that position.”
He was just answering a question, but you have to wonder why Scott would actually say that and provide motivation for an opponent. You know the comments would be passed along to Mudiay, who just added it to the fuel for his fire.
“They passed up on me; that’s definitely a motivation,” Mudiay told Los Angeles News Group after morning shootaround at Westchester High School. “They took another point guard ahead of me. I’m a point guard. So I guess they saw something in [Russell] that they didn’t see in me…
“That’s another human’s opinion,” Mudiay said. “I’m not worried about him. I just have to worry about what I do and worry about the Denver Nuggets.”
Right now, Mudiay is ahead of Russell on the learning curve. Mudiay has a more NBA ready body, plus he played for a season against professionals and men over in China, while Russell is still adapting from the college game to the NBA. Neither player is shooting well (both are under 37 percent) and both are turning the ball over way more than you would like. That’s to be expected. Mudiay has been given the keys to the Nuggets offense and has his hand on the flow of the offense much more than Russell now (who has to share the ball with Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant), but both are trying to pick up the game.
Mudiay impressed me at Summer League, I think he can develop into a special player. With Russell, it’s far too early to say, he needs more time as he tries to catch up with the speed of the game. It’s impossible to say right now with any real certainty which of these two point guards will be the better player in three years.
But the Lakers have bet more heavily as an organization on Russell — he was their highest draft pick since James Worthy. They need him to be a franchise cornerstone player, they passed on Jahlil Okafor, Stanley Johnson, Mudiay, and others to take him, they need him and Julius Randle (who has impressed) to be the real deal.
If in three years if Mudiay has everyone saying “how did they pass on him?” it will be a big setback for the Lakers.