Everything You Need to Know About Miami Heat Rookie Shabazz Napier

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Everything You Need to Know About Miami Heat Rookie Shabazz Napier
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The Miami Heat haven't exactly put a premium on the NBA draft throughout Pat Riley's reign as team president. 

In the past seven drafts, the Heat have made just three first-round picks: Michael Beasley (2008), Norris Cole (2012) and Arnett Moultrie (2013, traded on draft night).

So it certainly says a lot about Shabazz Napier that the Heat were willing to trade for his rights at the end of the first round on 2014 draft night with the Charlotte Hornets.

We're going to take an in-depth look at Napier—from his background to his skills to his potential role on this team—and learn everything we need to know about this prospect that Riley and Co. are so enamored with.

 

Background

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Napier excelled at Charlestown High School and Lawrence Academy before committing to the University of Connecticut in 2010.

Napier has one of the more impressive collegiate pedigrees of any player from this year's draft. He was a four-year contributor at Connecticut and a member of two championship teams.

While always a well-regarded player, Napier truly burst on the national scene during his senior season in 2013-14.

Napier averaged 18.0 points (42.9 percent shooting from the floor and 40.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc), 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game during the regular season. 

Napier was the star of the 2014 NCAA tournament, putting the Huskies on his back en route to a title. He averaged 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the six games. He dropped 22 points in the tourney's final contest against Kentucky.

Napier left UConn with a list of honors that include the Bob Cousy Award (2014), NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player (2014) and first-team All American (2014).

He also finished top-five in school history in the following categories: points (fourth), assists (third), steals (second), three-pointers made (second), games played (first) and free throws made (first).

 

Skills

Napier is a versatile talent.

He possesses outstanding handles and uses them to create his own shot and get to the basket. 

He's also developed into an effective spot-up shooter, posting a 55.1 effective field-goal percentage in spot-up situations in 2013-14, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required). While the Heat won't let it fly like they have in years past with LeBron James creating open looks for others, Napier's shooting ability will still have plenty of value in coach Erik Spoelstra's small-ball system.

Still, it's worth noting that Napier struggled massively with his shot throughout summer league play, knocking down just 27.4 percent of his attempts in nine games. While Napier's overall body of work suggests he'll be able to hit shots at the next level, those woes are a bit concerning.

Considering Napier is undersized at 6'1", the fact that he averaged 5.9 rebounds per game in college is a testament to how hard he plays. Napier's ability on the glass was on par with then-Florida Gator big man Patric Young (6.2 rebounds per game in 2013-14).

Napier's assist numbers (4.9 per game) aren't anything to get too excited about, and the point guard qualified as a shoot-first guard in college. 

However, as long he understands that he's no longer the star, which requires him to be a more willing passer at the next level, Napier can develop into a solid floor general due to his handles and driving skills. Napier should rack up a fair amount of assists in Miami as a result of drive-and-kick situations.

Due to his lack of size and lateral quickness, Napier isn't going to be a great defender at the next level. However, the great effort he puts forth should help him remain capable on that end.

Napier is fairly turnover prone and will need to improve in that respect going forward. Napier averaged 2.9 turnovers per game throughout his senior season and those problems didn't go away in summer league (4.2 per game). 

 

Team Role

Napier will enter training camp battling with Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole for starting point guard duties.

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
Napier is unlikely to beat out Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole to be the Heat's starting point guard.

However, due to Napier's status as a rookie combined with Chalmers and Cole's experience in Spoelstra's system, the former Connecticut star is extremely unlikely to emerge from camp a starter.

But that doesn't mean Napier is poised to be a benchwarmer next season. While the Heat don't typically like to rely on young players, Napier is a 23-year-old who contributed for four years in college. If he can prove his summer league woes were a fluke, Spo will give him a shot.  

Furthermore, the Heat lack guards. That fact may result in Chalmers being shifted to shooting guard at times, which obviously could result in more run for Napier. 

Still, without Cole being traded, it's hard to imagine Napier making a huge splash on the scene in Year 1. But he will be given an opportunity to fight for rotational minutes on a top team in the Eastern Conference, and as a late first-round pick, one really can't ask for much more than that. 

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