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After bypassing college for a $1.2 million deal in China, guard Emmanuel Mudiay's future with the Guangdong Southern Tigers has grown unclear.
Mudiay, a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, has missed four consecutive games with an ankle sprain and will be replaced – at minimally in the short term – with veteran NBA guard Will Bynum on Friday, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Bynum is finalizing a deal for the rest of the season in Guangdong, but has yet to sign the contract, a source said. That could come within hours, however. Chinese teams are allowed only two American players on the roster, but Bynum can replace Mudiay as the teenage American star is rehabbing his injury, sources said.
DraftExpress.com – the No. 1 site for NBA draft information – has Mudiay as the No. 2 overall projected pick in the 2015 draft.
Mudiay was unable to qualify academically to play basketball for coach Larry Brown at Southern Methodist University, which led to him accepting the $1 million-plus contract and an endorsement deal with Under Armour.
Mudiay, 18, has played 10 games in China, averaging 17.7 points, six rebounds and six assists. NBA executives who've watched him told Yahoo Sports he's only enhanced his draft value with his performances in China so far.
It is possible that Guangdong could release Mudiay and pay him the balance of his contract, or hold onto the teenager and watch how Bynum impacts the team until Mudiay's ankle allows him to return to the lineup. Eventually, Guangdong could make a decision on which guard to keep – and release the other. Nevertheless, it would be an immense investment to bring Bynum over on a guaranteed $1 million-plus agreement – only to use him for one or two weeks.
Mudiay's injury is only a short-term hurdle for the team, but Guangdong, a perennial Chinese power, has dropped into fourth place and has been anxious to get his production back on the floor. Guangdong has won three out of four games without Mudiay.
Mudiay has to protect his draft value, and his representatives will be exceedingly careful to make sure he doesn't risk further injury or poor performance in China. If released, Mudiay could simply return to the United States and train in preparation to begin predraft workouts with NBA teams prior to the June draft.
NBA teams planning to scout Mudiay in China had been on hold with the uncertainty surrounding the guard's availability. Several teams – including San Antonio and Phoenix – sent representatives to scout Mudiay early in the season, but many more curtailed planned trips in recent weeks.
Every NBA team planned to scout Mudiay for several days of practices and games, but executives have been reluctant to dispatch personnel to China without an assurance Mudiay will be available in the next few weeks, front office sources said.
Mudiay attended Prime Prep Academy in Dallas. He was born in Zaire and escaped war-torn Congo before settling in the United States with his family.