The Nuggets are showing the NBA how you’re supposed to develop young stars

Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris
October 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first quarter in a preseason game at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

At just 19 years old, Emmanuel Mudiay is the face of the Denver Nuggets franchise. He may not be the best player on the team, but this organization revolves around him. If that wasn’t clear when the Nuggets jettisoned Ty Lawson off to Houston, it is now that he’s being given free reign over the team’s offense, in good times and in bad.

For everyone inside the organization, Mudiay is the future; he is the hope. And right now, they’ll sacrifice almost anything — including a few wins — to groom him into the best possible point guard he can be.

We’ve seen double-double digit turnovers. We’ve seen Mudiay shoot under 20 percent from the field. We’ve seen Mudiay chuck passes out of bounds and into the back of his teammates’ heads (dinged an oblivious Jokic twice  against the Spurs). And through it all, Malone never holds him back.

Mudiay is currently 18th in the NBA (first among rookies) with a usage rate of 28.3. That’s the same usage rate as Anthony Davis, it’s more than John Wall and just behind Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. The next closest Nugget is Danilo Gallinari, with a usage rate of 20.9.

If Mudiay is going to learn, he’s going to learn from his mistakes, and there have been plenty of them.

Against the Spurs on Wednesday night, Mudiay may have had the worst game of his young career, going 2-12 from the field, scoring just five points and posting a plus/minus of -18, lowest on the team. Through the 27 minutes he was on the floor, he looked thoroughly outclassed by the Spurs; you would have thought Mudiay had decided to go college with the way Tony Parker was schooling him on the pick and roll.

And you know what? It’s totally fine.

And unlike a certain organization out west, the Nuggets understand that.

For me, one of the most interesting things to watch through the start of the season is how differently the Nuggets and Lakers have treated their rookie point guards. On one hand, you’ve got the Nuggets, who’ve handed the keys over to Mudiay, expecting him to come back with some scratches and dings, but as one hell of a driver. On the other hand, the Lakers have placed No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell in the child safety seat, forcing him to wait until the car completely stalls on the side of the highway before asking if he knows where to find some gas.

Not only is Russell averaging just 24.8 minutes per game, but his usage rate is at an even 20, 114th in the league. For comparison, thats the same rate as the Nuggets’ Will Barton. It’s also just the fifth highest rate on the Lakers’ roster. Robert Sacre is technically a more integral part of the Lakers offense (in just four minutes … but still)!

Coach Malone’s and Lakers coach Byron Scott‘s philosophy on developing young point guards — both of which are believed to be the “future of the franchise” — could not be more different.

Well congratulations, Scott, your Lakers are 2-9 and one of the biggest embarrassments in the NBA. I’m glad you put winning before the development of your young players.

And that’s why the Nuggets have it figured out; that’s why all of Denver needs to be behind Malone and this organization. Right now, it’s not about wins and losses; even in 2015, it’s about the future.

There may be moments — like against the Spurs — where the Nuggets would have a greater chance at victory with Jameer Nelson running the point (his +7 plus/minus was the highest on the team and 25 points higher than Mudiay’s), but that’s not what they need. They need Mudiay to get embarrassed by Tony Parker, to get blocked by Tim Duncan and learn what it means to be an NBA point guard.

The wins will come — they already are — but right now, it’s all about incremental improvement.

Oh, and no-look oops …

I swear, this kid may end up topping Andre Miller as the best ally-oop passer in NBA history.