The Los Angeles Lakers will have plenty of options if they keep their top-five pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and while it seems Jahlil Okafor is the sure-bet first-overall pick, there's still plenty of speculation to be had. Emmanuel Mudiay was one of the highest-ranked prospects heading into the year, but his decision to skip college and play in China has given him mixed returns.
NBA teams still have their eyes on him, though. D'Angelo Russell has captured the attention of fans soaking in the college season, but Mudiay is considered the player with a higher-upside while still being excellent in his own right. This is what ESPN's Chad Ford revealed about Mudiay in his latest ESPN Insider article:
"The two guys with the biggest upsides in the draft are Mudiay and Towns," one NBA GM told ESPN. "Okafor and Russell are more sure things, but neither of those guys have the ceiling of Mudiay and Towns. And of those four, Mudiay is the best athlete. I can understand a team taking any of those four guys No. 1. But if you're asking me who has the chance to be a game-changer in the NBA, I think it's Mudiay. Big risk, big reward."
The risk comes with a lack of scouting on Mudiay. He played 12 games, according to Real GM's international player database. Over those contests he averaged 18 points, 5.9 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals, but how that kind of production would measure up against college competition is up for debate. Mudiay didn't get as much burn as anyone scouting him would like, but it sounds like he's ready to move on to Plan B when he returns to the States.
Ford also revealed that Mudiay will work with SMU head coach Larry Brown leading up to the draft -- the same coach he "spurned" when he decided he would play overseas. Brown gushed about his pupil, and had this to say to NBA executives who want to see more of what Emmanuel is capable of, via Ford:
Brown says the NBA guys will get what they asked -- a Larry Brown-coached Mudiay -- just a little later than they thought.
"He's coming to hang out with me when his season is over," Brown said. "I'll get him ready. He's going to be special. Just wait and see."
It will be interesting to see how Mudiay works on keeping his draft-stock alive, but working under Larry Brown is something that should pique the curiosity of scouts. If you want some highlights, here's something recent from his return from a four-month absence: