Denver Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has gone from the franchise’s saving grace to the bottom feeder, losing his reins in the team’s starting rotation.

The move was a statement about where Mudiay and the franchise stand to date. The Nuggets are in the thick of the playoff race and need to put their best foot forward if they want to break their three-year playoff drought, and for the time being, Mudiay’s talents will not take center stage.

Mudiay missed the team’s last six games prior to the All-Star break. In that span, guards Jamal Murray and Jameer Nelson impressed, averaging 10.6 and 12.5 points respectively over the course of the games Mudiay missed.

The impressive performances of Murray and Nelson were enough for head coach Michael Malone to make the switch as his team gears up for their final push for the postseason.

“The reality is this,” Malone explained. “With 25 [23] games to go, you can’t play everybody and so those are the decisions that are made. We went with Jameer Nelson as our starter and Jamal Murray as our backup and I’ll probably go with that for the next couple of games and see where that takes us. That doesn’t mean that Emmanuel is completely done with and not part of the team anymore. By no means is that the case. I can only pick four guys to play in the backcourt and right now I’m going to go with Jameer, Jamal, Gary, and Will Barton as those four backcourt guys.”

Like his rookie year, Mudiay’s sophomore season has been shaky. The turnovers remain an epidemic and the lack of court vision and playmaking make for difficult times when Mudiay is running the point.

His scoring is down from year one, and his turnovers have only improved marginally. In all reality, Mudiay is virtually the same player as last year, having shown little to no improvement in certain aspects of his game. To date, no significant strides have been made in his performance to justify that he continue starting. The demotion seems to be the team’s first indication they are game planning without Mudiay as a driving point.

While the team may be better off without Mudiay as a starter, for the time being, the decision was still a tough and impactful one for coach Malone to make.

“That’s probably been one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in terms of what guards I’m going to go with,” Malone said. “Emmanuel was starting for us for a year-and-a-half, so for him to go from starting to kind of being out of the rotation is a lot to handle for a young man. My message to him was that this is not set in stone. We all know that with 24 games to go a lot of things can change. Continue to work. Continue to stay ready. It’s just a decision I made as a head coach to go with Jameer and Jamal right now, and that can change in the near future.”

The demotion certainly sends the signal that the franchise is doubting Mudiay’s ability to be the playmaking guard they thought he would be when they drafted him with the 7th overall pick in 2015.

The Nuggets are deep at the guard position with Murray, Nelson, Barton and Harris all vying for minutes. The franchise can no longer afford to sit by and wait for Mudiay to develop, from here on out, all of Mudiay’s minutes will be earned.

While the bad has certainly outweighed the good so far in Mudiay’s career, the ball is still in his court. It will be solely up to him to re-earn his spot and role with this team. Until that happens, expect Denver to move on without Mudiay as both their starter and backup point guard.

Mudiay is averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 assists per game this season.