D'Angelo Russell says he wears No. 0 because that's how many people can guard him. Emmanuel Mudiay says if he had gone to college, he would've led his team to the Final Four.
Confidence doesn't seem to be an issue for the two best point guards in Thursday night's NBA Draft. But their bravado, and the fact that they are both dynamic playmakers, is about where the similarities end.
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Russell is more of a known quantity having played at Ohio State. Mudiay is being labeled a mystery because of his decision to forego his college career in order to play professionally in China for one year.
Russell is arguably the best passer in the draft yet is more of a hybrid guard with a scorer's mentality. Mudiay is a great decision-maker who gets teammates involved but hasn't shown a consistent outside shot.
Though Phil Jackson recently said the Knicks are set at the lead guard position, they don't have a long-term point guard. Both would fill that role, and both met with Jackson.
"He's pretty funny," Mudiay said. "You would think he's real, real serious. But he has a good sense of humor, he made me laugh a couple of times. He definitely is a funny person. Everything else basketball wise, he is real serious about that."
Russell had a different take.
"He's hard to read," Russell said. "I try to read people before I speak and he gives you no facial expressions, no laughs, no giggles, none of that. He's just a hard guy to read . . . he's a genius, man. Just reading and going over the offense with him. He's a genius."
Russell, who is from Louisville, joked on Wednesday that New York City is great but said he hadn't heard someone say "excuse me" once and had been bumped into about 20 times. He likely will have to deal with that New York behavior sporadically during the season because the odds of him slipping to the Knicks at the fourth pick seem small.
The Lakers are showing interest, and Philadelphia is in need of a point guard to complement their crowded frontcourt. There was speculation that Russell had no desire to play for the 76ers after he canceled a workout with the team.
"No, not true at all," Russell said. "I was sick and rescheduled the workout. I wanted to go in there with my full potential."
Russell has tremendous court vision and creativity with the basketball. With his ability to create off the dribble, he excels at the drive-and-kick. He said that in order to thrive in the read-and-react nature of the Knicks' triangle offense, a player must be smart. He was asked if he thinks such a complex offense scares players off.
"I wouldn't definitely say that," he responded. "To get the opportunity to play for the Knicks is a bigger picture than the offense."
But Mudiay, who was born in the Congo and played high school basketball in Texas, is likely to be on the board when the Knicks are on the clock. Had he gone to SMU, where he originally committed to play under Larry Brown, many believe he would be in consideration for the top pick in the draft.
"That's the funny thing to me because I grew up playing high school basketball, AAU basketball out here in the States," Mudiay said. "But I didn't go to college so that's the whole reason why I guess they call it a mystery. I feel like if I would have went to college it would have been a different story. They would have got to see me play, which I understand. But I think the people that seen me play growing up, they really know how I play."
They know that, at 6-5, Mudiay has size, speed and a quick first step. He thrives in the pick-and-roll and when attacking the basket. But his inconsistent outside shot could prove to be a liability in the triangle offense.
"I'm confident in it," Mudiay said of his shot. "I don't care what nobody says. I'm gonna shoot it, if I make it, I make it. If I miss it, I'm going to come back and shoot it again . . . I'm confident in my whole game"
Mudiay said he would love to hand the ball off to Carmelo Anthony in the open court. He said he would love to learn from a former point guard such as Knicks coach Derek Fisher. He said he would love to be tutored by someone with "I don't know what he has, 11, 12 one of them" championship rings like Phil Jackson.
"It's the Mecca of basketball out here in New York," Mudiay said. "Why not? Every time you step out there at Madison Square Garden, you want to perform."