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Even after tournament run, Shabazz Napier remains likely second round pick

Apr 8, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT

NCAA Men's Final Four - Championship Getty Images

Shabazz Napier was probably the best point guard in college basketball this year.

The senior played his best ball when it mattered most and led the UConn Huskies to the NCAA title. LeBron James watched the NCAA Tournament and said Napier should be the first point guard off the board.

NBA talent evaluators saw his tournament play… and still have him pegged as a second round draft pick.

The first two point guards off the board will be Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Australia’s Dante Exum (the order depends on who you talk to, although most have Exum a little higher). After him comes Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis in the teens. Then late in the first round/early second Louisiana Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton. Then we get into the second round and a host of guys such as Deonte Burton of Nevada, Vasilije Micic of Serbia, Jahil Carson of Arizona State, and Jordan Clarkson of Missouri.

Napier, even with his two NCAA rings, is in the mix with that last mentioned group of second rounders. Maybe behind most of them.

Coaches will love Napier’s maturity, but general managers are looking for potential, the guy who will be the best point guard three years from now. By then Smart and Ennis will more mature and their more impressive physical skills give them a much hither ceiling. Napier is a senior, age 23, and he is farther along his development curve (what you see is basically what you get). Teams love Napier’s ability to create offense and his feel for the game as he does it. If he played baseball you’d call him a crafty lefty (even though he’s not a lefty), a player who gets by on creativity as much or more than athleticism. He’s a guy you can draft and play right away.

But he is not athletic for the NBA level, not explosive, and some of his crafty moves will not work against longer, faster players. Also, his decision making is not consistent.

PBT’s NBA Draft Expert Ed Isaacson of and Rotoworld has been working on his detailed breakdown of Napier’s game. He also sent PBT these comments.

“Napier’s play through the NCAA Tournament was impressive, though it put a big spotlight on both the good and bad of his game. He has great speed and is a tremendous ballhandler, and he uses both well to either get into the lane or create space for his jumper. He has the ability to create shots when you don’t think he has a chance, and he is also a consistent perimeter shooter (though that leg kick and fadeaway drives me nuts). Napier is an excellent defender, on and off the ball, and though he may not always get a lot of steals, he disrupts the flow of the offense.

“Napier’s biggest issues are with finishing around the basket, where his lack of size and strength force him to take some pretty wild shots, and his tendency to try and force bad passes. He will often look to make the spectacular play, with mixed results.

“It was a great tournament run, but I expect his draft value remains around the early second round.”

The second round means no guaranteed contract. Because he can play now he likely makes the NBA roster of whoever drafts him, but it’s going to be a fight to stick long term for him.

  1. lj312chicago - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    LBJ said last night no point guard should be drafted before Napier…Any time anyone does anything relevant in sports LBJ is there on his knees sucking……up to the guy (lol what’d you think I was going to say?)

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Don’t forget that LBJ owns a entertainment representation agency business so it would behoove him to try and woo potential clients. As for Napier in the draft: if LeBron likes him, why wouldn’t the Heat try for him at the end of the 1st round? Seems like a Norris Cole kind of player and he’s done well for Miami.

      • casualcommenter - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        Exactly. People called LeBron a bandwagoner for speaking highly of Johnny Manziel during Manziel’s Heisman-winning college season, and yet, wouldn’t you know, now LeBron and Manziel are doing McDonald’s commercials together. Funny how that worked out…

        You don’t win many clients as part-owner of an entertainment representation agency by saying negative things about popular, prominent athletes. You win clients by hyping them up to your 15 million Twitter followers.

        It’s very basic business logic.

    • cantonbound13 - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      You have to think like LeBron thinks. Napier will be a great pro after biogenesis.

  2. bougin89 - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    He’d be a welcome addition to the Bucks in the early 2nd round.

  3. steelerfanforlife - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    So teams draft for what a player will be, not what he is. NBA wants kids to stay in school longer so they don’t have to be responsible for projecting a player and missing! Gotta love it!

    • 00maltliquor - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:25 PM

      I know! That part of the article drove me NUTS! So stupid.

  4. 5xchamp24 - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    Chances of him being a starting pg aren’t that good because of his 6’1″ 280lb frame, but everybody thought Mike Conley 6’1″ 180lbs wasn’t a good enough player and look at him now. So its possible. And by the way, who cares what LBJ has to say anyway?

    • spursareold - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      Height isn’t a good way to compare 2 PGs, or 2 players of any position.

    • casualcommenter - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      Chris Paul was 6’0″ and 178 lbs on draft day, but he was a consensus lottery pick.

      Napier’s height isn’t the main issue weighing down his draft stock.

  5. jj871 - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    This is why guys like MKG get drafted before guys like Lillard. I’m not saying Napier should go before Smart, Exum, or Ennis – but he should most definitely be drafted before the remaining guys on that list. Talent evaluators all too often become dreamers and struggle to put a proper balance between potential and current ability. If this kid falls to the end of the first round then he’s really going to help whatever quality team drafts him at that spot.

    • borderline1988 - Apr 8, 2014 at 2:49 PM

      Pointing to one example (Lillard, which is actually a bad example because he’s far more athletic and explosive than Napier) doesn’t prove anything.

      Kendall Marshall went pretty high based on current ability. So did Jimmer Fredette. DJ Augustin was another guy who went high based on his ability in NCAA (and intangibles) as opposed to potential. They may all turn into fine NBA players, but if you’re looking for star potential in the lottery, you’re not going to get that.

      Fact is, guards who cant compete physically and athletically very often struggle at the next level. That shouldn’t be the only thing that evaluators look at, but if you want to draft someone in the lottery, they should be more of a fuller package, and a glaring weakness such as lack of athletiscm and finishing ability for a guard is not as easy thing to overlook, especially in such a deep draft.

      • borderline1988 - Apr 8, 2014 at 2:54 PM

        Just to further that, try to think of all the NBA stars (especially guards) who are not physically/athletically gifted by NBA standards.

        Most NBA GMs, for the lottery picks, would rather whiff on a potential star like MKG than get a guaranteed bench player in Napier, even if he is a leader and dependable guy.

      • 00maltliquor - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:28 PM

        Kendall Marshall came out after only 2 years. Not a good example for the point you’re trying to make.

  6. bballhistorian - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Along with “draft experts” stating the pros and cons of a 4 yr senior pt guard who has matured with 2 college rings in his resume…

    Here are the pros and cons for players like Napier who fall within the draft experts thinking. Lets start with the cons:

    Cons: A player staying more than 2 yrs in college are not looked at as players with enough potential…because if they did, they wouldve left within his first 2 yrs. So instead of doing the “right” thing by developing and maturing during college, they

  7. genericcommenter - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    He lacks the size of a Jack Napier, and people will hold that against him.

    • kb2408 - Apr 8, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      Who or what is a “Jack Napier”??

  8. kanemoney - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    I think he can be a solid backup PG in the 10-20 mpg range. I would consider that a win if I were him.

  9. kb2408 - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    He can ball but I don’t think I’d take him over Smart or Exum. He’s more like a very small two guard. He will play in the league though. I’m still amazed that UConn pulled it off! A team with “maybe” 2 pros beat a college all star team of 5-7 pros? March Madness is truly awesome!!

    • mariokrt642003 - Apr 9, 2014 at 2:30 AM

      That should tell you something…

  10. pharohislife - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    I’ve been hearing he’s a mid to late 1st round pick.

  11. mackcarrington - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    He’s a college senior, so he can’t be any good.

  12. mariokrt642003 - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:38 PM

    Future upside??? I think he is a pretty good player and court leader today…..and a proven winner..hope he is picked in the first round and get his contract…otherwise would be happy if the Knicks or Mavs get him in the second round….

    The draft seems these days about picking prospects or projects…not players who have achieved…..

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