Utah Jazz: Once deemed an afterthought, Emmanuel Mudiay was a FA steal

When he first signed with the Utah Jazz, Emmanuel Mudiay was viewed more as a developmental piece. His improvement accelerated and made him one of Utah’s best additions.

Remember back in July when the Utah Jazz made a boatload of signings viewed to the public as A+ moves?

First, it was Bojan Bogdanovic, signing a four-year deal worth $73 million after a true breakout season with Indiana. Ed Davis quickly followed, signing a two-year, $10 million deal to play backup center. Then it was Jeff Green, signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal to help on the wing.

After that, the Utah Jazz made a bit of a surprising move, signing Emmanuel Mudiay to a one-year, minimum contract.

Mudiay was coming off a strong season statistically with New York, averaging 14.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists in 27.2 minutes. His play wasn’t as good as it looks on paper, though, serving as a classic example of what we call “empty stats”.

He put up numbers on a bad team, but could he contribute to winning basketball? He hadn’t at that point in time. He came to Utah searching for a winning opportunity, and for the opportunity to grow as a player in Quin Snyder’s system.

The system has a tremendous track record of developing talent, whether it be lottery picks like Gordon Hayward and Donovan Mitchell, or undrafted players like Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale.

Fans figured that Mudiay wouldn’t be in Utah’s rotation to begin the season, but it turned out that Dante Exum wasn’t fully healthy as the regular season began. This gave Mudiay the opportunity to serve as the backup point guard behind the Jazz’s star acquisition — Mike Conley.

At first, Mudiay and the Utah Jazz didn’t appear to be a very good match. Fans grew frustrated with Mudiay’s lack of ball movement and poor decision making.

His game eventually took a turn for the better, and he provided the Jazz with some real good minutes, especially when Conley was out due to injury. On the season, Mudiay averaged 7.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 15.7 minutes.

Mudiay’s defense was solid, he got to his spots and was efficient, and he always played hard. Fans quickly changed their tune and came to love the 24-year-old point guard. He was someone you could count on for production every time he was on the court.

His rebirth on the court helped the Jazz in a major way but may have hurt their chances of re-signing him during the summer. Utah doesn’t own his Bird Rights and can only sign him with cap space.

He should surely see a raise from his $1.7 million salary on the open market, and with the Jazz having other priorities (extending Donovan Mitchell, re-signing Jordan Clarkson), Mudiay may be on his way to his fourth NBA team.

Mudiay outplayed his projections by a mile, and while many would love to see him remain in Utah, I’m just happy to see him back on the right track. I know he’s appreciative of his time in Utah and will continue to grow as a player regardless of where he ends up.

So, looking back on Utah’s key free agency additions… Bogdanovic? Yeah, he was an A+ signing and probably Utah’s biggest free agency pickup of all time. Green/Davis? Severely underwhelming. Mudiay? A pleasant surprise for someone who may have saved his NBA future.