For Denver Nuggets faithful and fantasy basketball owners, rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay started the season with enormous upside after a breakout performance in the NBA Summer League. Flashing the ability to excel in transition running the fast break and the vision to consistently create open looks for his teammates, the fifth overall pick seemed poised for a solid fantasy year contributing in steals and assists while adding value in rebounds in points despite playing through the obvious growing pains of a first-year player.
After the quarter point in the season, the narrative has certainly changed for Mudiay, who has struggled with turnovers and poor shooting from the field, disappointing fantasy owners who selected in him the middle rounds of the draft. With Mudiay expected to miss the next weeks worth of games, fantasy owners are faced with an interesting question regarding the point guard: hold and wait on him realizing his upside or part ways either through trade or the waiver wire.
For Mudiay owners, it may be tough to drop the nineteen-year-old without a firm backup plan, so the best course of action is to simply explore the trade market for a more established fantasy asset. Even after a slow start, Mudiay still has plenty of upside for fantasy owners. Averaging 10.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game, it's easy to see his value as a point guard capable of stuffing the stat sheet.
However, it's been his four turnovers per game and 31.1/24.7/68.2 shootings splits that have really hurt fantasy owners. In a standard 9-category league, Mudiay is a negative in almost half of the categories. If a frustrated owner is able to swing a trade for an undervalued guard or forward, it is advisable to sell Mudiay's upside and get a more consistent assent in return.
However, if one of these deals is not present, things get a little bit more complicated.
Returning from the injury, Mudiay will likely be on a minutes restriction with Jameer Nelson taking on a larger role managing the offense. Nelson is a more reliable outside shooter and is able to better stretch the floor in Denver's half court sets.
As the only active point guard on the roster, Nelson is one of the top streaming options for the foreseeable future due to the uptick in minutes. However, his recent play (3 double-digit scoring performances in his last 4 games) suggests that Nelson will be given more control of the offense as Mudiay returns. While very different stylistically from Mudiay, Nelson's steady hand and veteran experience provides Denver's frontcourt the absence of Mudiay's pitfalls: reckless play and turnovers.
Moving forward, Mudiay still has a high ceiling to contribute across many statistical categories, but Nelson's presence is more of a threat to his overall value. Hopefully, taking a break from the rigors of NBA competition and easing back into the starting position, Mudiay will return more effective and able to limit his turnovers and poor shot selection.
However, I am skeptical if his after-injury value justifies the wasted roster spot on a recovering, erratic guard. As a result, I also think it's justifiable to drop Mudiay in the short term in favor of an emerging waiver wire option. It simply isn't worth a two week loss in production for owners to keep Mudiay, not to mention the inevitable growing pains as he readjusts to the starting lineup.
Monitoring Mudiay's progress as he sits on the waiver represents the best of both words: an immediate upgrade for fantasy owners while closely watching his response to the adversity of the NBA.