Report: Rockets Wanted to Draft Shabazz Napier in 2014 to Lure LeBron James to HOU

Adam WellsMay 5, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James dribbles during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings Friday, April 30, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

It turns out the Miami Heat weren't the only team keeping a close eye on LeBron James' tweets during the 2014 NCAA men's basketball tournament. 

Per ESPN's Zach Lowe, the Houston Rockets "very briefly" considered drafting Shabazz Napier in 2014 to appeal to James during his free agency that summer. 

Lowe noted that Houston was saving cap space in the summer of 2014 to make a strong play for Chris Bosh, but the organization left the door open for the possibility that James might consider them. 

Napier had one of the greatest tournament runs in history a few months before the NBA draft. He averaged 21.2 points per game on 46.2 percent three-point shooting with 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in six games to help Connecticut win the national championship. 

On the night of the 2014 draft, James sent out this tweet:

LeBron James @KingJames

My favorite player in the draft! #Napier

The Heat, who were in the process of trying to re-sign James, wound up selecting Napier with the 24th overall pick. 

Ultimately, though, Miami's best efforts to keep James were all for naught. The four-time NBA MVP signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending four years with the Heat. 

The Rockets' angle in this whole thing is a fascinating "what if" scenario. They were coming off a 54-win season in 2013-14 with a roster that featured James Harden, Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley. 

Despite not landing James, the Rockets went 56-26 in 2014-15. They reached the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Golden State Warriors, who defeated James and the Cavs in the NBA Finals.