February 03, 2015

The Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay and the Philadelphia 76ers' T.J. McConnell are the top rookies in the NBA in assists, though they entered the league in vastly different ways.

These point guards will meet for the first time Saturday as McConnell's club will once again be without Jahlil Okafor when it hosts Mudiay and the Nuggets.

Mudiay is a native of Congo who played high school basketball in the United States and one season professionally in China before Denver (7-13) selected him with the No. 7 pick. He is averaging 6.1 assists while enduring growing pains as one of the league's worst shooters at 31.0 percent.

McConnell was undrafted after spending two years apiece in college at Duquesne and Arizona. The guard, averaging 6.0 assists, started 13 games before coming off the bench for the last four.

Okafor will complete his two-game, team-imposed suspension Wednesday after the release of a second video provided details of his fight in Boston he hadn't revealed to the club. The center, averaging a team-high 17.2 points and 8.1 rebounds, sat out that night's 99-87 loss at New York.

''Today we learned more and the thing I do say is when I spent time with Jahlil in his room today, he is ashamed, he's embarrassed and this has caught him off guard," coach Brett Brown said.

The 76ers (1-19) shot 37.2 percent without Okafor one night after their first win, 103-91 over the Los Angeles Lakers. Hollis Thompson scored 13 points as Philadelphia never led and trailed by as many as 23 points

"We couldn't make a shot," Brown said. "I thought we had good looks. I thought across the board, I don't fault our energy. I thought we scrambled to the end. We just couldn't make some shots. Last night took its toll."

The 76ers recalled guards Tony Wroten and Kendall Marshall from the D-League on Friday. Wroten is expected to make his season debut while Marshall is still out after a torn ACL.

The Nuggets ended an eight-game slide with Thursday's 106-105 victory at Toronto. Will Barton scored 22 points off the bench, Danilo Gallinari scored 21 and Mudiay handed out nine assists to help make up for his five points on 2-of-9 shooting.

"Tonight was a great win for us that we needed in the worst way, that's an understatement," coach Michael Malone said.

Denver has only 18 turnovers in the last two games after averaging 21.3 in its previous three. Mudiay averages 3.9 turnovers per game to rank among the league's worst, though that figure is down to 2.8 over his last five games - a stretch in which he is shooting 24.2 percent.

The Nuggets have been hurt by poor shooting of Philadelphia area natives Randy Foye and Jameer Nelson, with both below 25.0 percent on 3-pointers.

"The challenge for both of those guys is if you are struggling to make shots like they are, find a way to contribute somewhere else," Malone said.

Guard Gary Harris could return from a four-game absence with a concussion while forward Kenneth Faried sat out Thursday with a recurring ankle injury.

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