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Roundball Stew

Stew: The Mudiay Dilemma

by Matt Stroup
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

I’d like to begin this week with an exchange that takes place between Roy Munson (played by Woody Harrelson) and Ishmael (Randy Quaid) in the 1996 movie Kingpin:

Ishmael: They expect me to come home with my tail between my legs but I won’t do it. I’d sooner get Munsoned out here in the middle of nowhere than lose face in front of my friends and family again —

Roy: Whoa, what’d you just say?

Ishmael: I said I don’t want to lose face in front of my friends and family.

Roy: No, before that.

Ishmael: I said I’d sooner get Munsoned out here in the middle of nowhere.

Roy: Munsoned? What the hell is that?

Ishmael: You know, Munsoned. To be up a creek without a paddle. To have the whole world in the palm of your hand and then blow it. You know, it’s a figure of speech.

Roy: Munsoned?

Perhaps it’s because I’m pretty much always thinking about how things relate to movies, and maybe it’s also because Emmanuel Mudiay is one of the more befuddling fantasy options in recent memory. Whatever the case, I recently found myself wondering: If we wanted to give meaning to the word Mudiay in a similar fashion to Munson, what would that meaning be?

Now I’m not saying that the brief career of Emmanuel Mudiay (incidentally, born the same year that Kingpin came out) is in any way a parallel to the sad downward trajectory of Roy Munson. And it’s way too soon to suggest that Mudiay, like Munson, had the whole world in the palm of his hand and then blew it.

What I do think we can say with certainty is: We just need to know, one way or another, whatever direction this is headed. Because so far it has just been one massive headache of inconsistency. But if last year’s No. 7 overall pick ever figures out how to string together long stretches of productivity, watch out.

As is, we’ve been left to imagine based on short hot streaks. There were a couple, for example, late last season — one eight-game stretch in March that saw Mudiay post 19.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.0 apg and 1.9 3s on 45.6 percent from the field. Then he had a season-ending eight-game run of 17.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.3 apg and 2.1 3s on 44.7 percent shooting.

This season, his best stretches have been shorter, but still impressive: seven games in November with averages of 18.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.0 spg and 1.6 3s (albeit with 43.2 FG and 4.1 TOs). Plus last month, a four-game run with 16.8 ppg, 5.0 apg and 2.8 3s on 57.8 percent from the field (and 2.5 TOs).

And then, there’s his last four games: 13.3 ppg, 7.0 apg, 2.0 spg and 2.0 3s on 50.0 percent from the field — quietly some very useful production if you got him into your lineup for Denver’s five games this week (three down, two to go).

But did you get him into your lineup? And can you be blamed in any way if you didn’t? Overall this season, Mudiay is averaging a relatively bland 12.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.2 apg, 0.9 spg and 1.2 3s, shooting just 38.0 percent from the floor. He’s ranked No. 216 in 9-category leagues, two spots below Salah Mejri. But he does occasionally go off, and it’s almost impossible to guess when you should play him and when you should sit him.

The consolation is this:

1) At age 20, in his second year, there’s still a chance he figures some things out and becomes far less of a fantasy headache in the next few years. After all, his percentages are up from last year (FG: 36.4 -> 38.0; FT: 67.0 -> 78.6), and his turnovers are down (3.2 -> 2.6). He’s also now working on a month-plus where he hasn’t been completely mauling you in FG and TOs (last 17 games: 11.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.6 3s, 43.9 FG, 2.2 TO). I may not be drafting him next season, but I’m also not writing him off for good as a fantasy option.

2) Let’s not forget, he finished strong last year (see above), and on his best days things still look pretty exciting. So he’s not the worst player to have on your bench and throw into your lineup when you see a hot streak coming — and hope that you guessed right.

(You can follow me on Twitter right here)

Other Random Thoughts: Robin Lopez’s last five games: 12.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 1.8 bpg in 31 minutes a game. … Andrew Wiggins shot 52.3 percent on 3s (making 2.1 per game) his first 11 games this season, at which point he was the No. 77-ranked player in 9-category leagues. Since then, he has shot 26.7 percent on 3s (making 0.9 per game), and he’s fallen to No. 182 in the rankings. I don’t think it’s oversimplifying things to say that he just needs to hit his 3s to be a helpful fantasy option. I’m not sure that’s suddenly about to happen, though. … Speaking of which, Kent Bazemore has struggled most of the season with his outside shot (30.8 percent on 3s), and he’s very much a player who needs his trey to set up his game off the dribble. So here’s the good news: In his last four games, Baze is averaging 15.5 ppg and 2.3 3s, shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 37.5 on 3s. The rest of his game hasn’t quite caught up (last four: 3.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.8 spg), and he’s coming off a relatively quiet line in a blowout loss Wednesday, so you might still be able to buy low. … In a somewhat spooky and mildly awesome turn of events, this song randomly came on while I was finishing up the column. 

Matt Stroup

Matt Stroup has covered basketball for NBC Sports Edge since 2008. You can find him on Twitter here .