Jason Kidd says Emmanuel Mudiay will be better than he was

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Eric Freeman
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DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11:  Emmanuel Mudiay #0 of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks at Pepsi Center on November 11, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11: Emmanuel Mudiay #0 of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks at Pepsi Center on November 11, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Denver Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has been one of the most impressive rookies of the young NBA season, running the offense for a rebuilding team and looking rather comfortable doing it. While the 19-year-old's stats show plenty of room for improvement — his 32.7 percent shooting from the field is particularly iffy — he makes plays and projects as a potential star. The 4-4 Nuggets can feel good about the future even if they hold a narrow chance at a playoff berth this season.

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A recent comment from a future Hall of Fame point guard could get the Nuggets and Mudiay to expect much more of the future. Jason Kidd, in town as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks for Wednesday's 103-102 Nuggets win, offered some thoughts on Mudiay's talents. The praise definitely qualifies as effusive. From Chris Dempsey for The Denver Post:

“At 19 years old, he’s very talented,” Kidd said. “He’s running the team, he’s not afraid to take a big shot. Some people have said that he can’t shoot, but he finds a way to put the ball in the basket. I think he enjoys to play the game, and I think for me, watching the tape on him is exciting. To see a 19-year old being able to run a team with his poise, and then also his skills. He has skills at the age of 19.” [...]

“But at that age, you are willing to give the ball, and I think he’s doing a really good job,” he said. “They are a young team, he’s asked to do a lot, and I think he’s standing up. He wants to be in that position, and it’s hard to say at 19-years old there are a lot of guys that can handle that.”

Asked if Mudiay compares favorably to him when he first broke into the NBA back in 1994, Kidd smiled again.

“He’ll be better,” Kidd said. “He’s better already. Being able to run an NBA team at 19 is not easy. You look at some of the greats — Magic (Johnson) was able to do it. And you’re looking at this kid Mudiay, who has the opportunity to do something special. So, I would encourage him to be better than me, and I think he will be at the end of the day.”

Kidd made these comments before Mudiay logged 16 points (5-of-16 FG), 11 assists, and just one turnover in the Denver victory, so it's not as if he was attempting to explain away the Bucks' struggles by talking up the opponent. He obviously likes what he's seen from the rookie.

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That said, it's probably best not to take Kidd's statements as reason to project Mudiay as a historically elite point guard after just eight regular-season games. It's not shocking that Kidd would identify with a young point guard whose shooting ability his been questioned, but he also remained relevant as long as he did in part because he developed a legitimately good spot-up jumper. For that matter, Kidd is underestimating his own talents. His 7.7 assists per 36 minutes average as a rookie is a tad higher than Mudiay's mark and came in a season that saw him turn 22 years old in March. But the 1994-95 NBA did not benefit point guards to the same extent as current rules do, and Kidd had to struggle for his share of control of the Mavericks in a way that Mudiay has not with the Nuggets.

So let's take this whole thing for what it is — a really great player saying a nice, self-effacing thing about a promising rookie. It's still pretty cool even without talk of the Hall of Fame.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!