Drafted by: Charlotte Hornets, No. 24 overall
Traded to: Miami Heat for P.J. Hairston and 55th overall pick
Height/Weight: 6'1", 175 lbs
Age: 22 years old
Projected NBA Position: Point Guard
Pro Comparison: D.J. Augustin
Twitter Handle: N/A
Shabazz Napier earned a reputation as a creative, competitive point guard during his time at UConn, and the 2014 NCAA title was the icing on the cake as a final audition for the NBA.
The undersized playmaker doesn't lack for ball-handling skills, shot-making prowess and confidence. Those three traits have driven his draft value, and they'll fuel his NBA productivity.
During his four years in college, he developed as a scorer and a passer, and he proved he can take the reins of a team in pressure-packed situations.
But how much of that will translate to the NBA, where size and speed reign supreme?
|Statistics at Connecticut|
This isn't Napier's most impressive department.
He's 5'11" in socks and 6'1" in shoes, and his wingspan is 6'3.25", per NBA.com. Against the vast majority of NBA guards, he's going to face a significant size differential. It doesn't help that he's a slight 175 pounds.
Those measurements would be less of an issue if he possessed upper-echelon athleticism, but he doesn't.
Yes, he's quick with the ball and can jump 37.5", but he doesn't possess on-a-dime explosiveness or lateral quickness. In fact, he recorded one of the worst lane-agility times of any player, not just point guards, at the NBA Draft Combine (11.6 seconds, per NBA.com/Stats). That doesn't bode well for his on-ball defense.
Playmaking and Creativity
With shifty ball-handling skills and a wide variety of moves, Napier is able to maneuver all over the court and find scoring chances for himself and teammates.
Sometimes it's a hesitation move that allows him to get into the lane, and sometimes it's a step-back jumper or ankle-breaking crossover. He's also capable of pairing east-west moves with north-south moves in the same sequence, making for a devastating combination.
He's always looking to find holes in the defense, and although he's a score-first point guard, he dished 4.5 assists per game during his collegiate career.
He's not an above-the-rim finisher, nor is he a brilliant floor general who racks up tons of assists. However, he'll be able to create enough shots for himself in the NBA as well as drive-and-dish and operate the pick-and-roll.
When Napier creates those windows of daylight to score, he usually finds a way to put the ball in the basket.
His three-point efficiency improved each year at UConn. He started at 33 percent as a freshman and finished hitting 41 percent of his triples as a senior. And while he might have trouble finding room to get his shot off at the next level, he'll confidently connect when he does have enough daylight.
Inside the arc, Napier's shooting touch allows him to hit mid-range jumpers, runners and floaters.
He may not be a highly productive scorer in the NBA, but the shooting talent that got him 20.5 points per 40 minutes as a senior (per Sports-Reference.com) will enable him to be a scoring spark as a pro.
Leadership/Floor General Experience
You can't weigh collegiate experience too heavily entering the NBA, but Napier's leadership at the helm of Connecticut's unit factors into his value.
Unlike the one-and-done youngsters quickly leaving school, Napier has an extensive, tangible understanding of how to direct a high-level offense. It gives him an edge to get immediate playing time and make an early impact.
We talked about Napier's physical shortcomings in the physical tools section, and the fact is that undersized guards without elite athleticism have trouble producing.
People love to compare Napier to Kemba Walker because of their size, playing style and competitiveness. But Walker is quicker and can jump higher, and that makes a huge difference on both ends of the floor. Unlike Walker, Napier will consistently struggle to keep opponents in front of him.
The other weakness in Napier's game isn't glaring, but it's a notable deficiency. He doesn't always make the right play, and his assist-to-turnover ratios were never great at UConn. Sometimes he forces up shots when he should pass, and sometimes he misses passing opportunities altogether. Will he be able to efficiently run an NBA offense for sustained stretches?
Due to his polished ball-handling skills, shooting deftness and experience, he should be able to make some noise in the rotation immediately.
His playmaking off the dribble will adequately spell the starting backcourt for a bit, as he delivers a mix of drives and pick-and-rolls. Until he masters the finer points of on-ball and team defense, however, his minutes might not be substantial.
Napier's ceiling isn't ridiculously high, and it's not too far from where he is now. Nevertheless, there's room for him to grow as a passer, and if he becomes a better decision-maker at quarterback, he could see increased playing time and maybe even a starting role.
If he improves his foot speed and makes the most of his defensive efforts within the system, he could hold his own as a 25- to 30-minute player.
Think of guys such as D.J. Augustin and Jarrett Jack. They're high-level backups who can serve as starters in the right situation. That's who Napier could be.
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