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LeBron James slights Dante Exum, Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis to praise Shabazz Napier

Apr 8, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

Shabazz Napier Shabazz Napier

Shabazz Napier just led Connecticut to the NCAA championship, winning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Recipients of the award typically rise in the draft, usually to the detriment of their NBA team, but will the effect lift a fringe first-round pick like Napier all the way into the lottery?

If LeBron James were a general manager, yes.

LeBron is making the same mistake many general managers have: getting caught up in the excitement of March Madness. Napier has had a tremendous run, but these last six games shouldn’t supersede his entire body of work.

I rate Dante Exum, Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis clearly ahead of Napier as NBA prospects. I can’t guarantee Exum, Smart and Ennis would go 3-for-3 in having better NBA careers than Napier, but I’d chance a pick on each of them before Napier without a doubt.

After that, there’s no point guard clearly more valuable than Napier.

Zach LaVine, a very raw 6-foot-5 prospect who left UCLA after his freshman year, will make an interesting comparison. Napier, a 6-foot senior, is much steadier, but he presents lower upside.

There will be at least one team drafting late in the first round that is focused on winning now and could use depth at point guard. That team could make a good landing spot for Napier, and if that happens, I bet it would make LeBron very happy.

  1. chris3141084 - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Wasn’t he all over Ennis saying the same thing a few months ago.

    • lj312chicago - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      who’s the biggest bandwagon fan when it comes to who’s hot right now…Justin Bieber…Drake…Miami Heat fans (99% of you aren’t from Florida let alone Miami)….or LeBron James…..it’s a pretty close race they all bandwagon like crazy

      • trollaikman8 - Apr 8, 2014 at 5:35 PM

        Snoop Dogg things Drake is getting a bit out of control with this bandwaggoning.

      • cantonbound13 - Apr 8, 2014 at 8:30 PM

        The worst fan base ever. No knowledge of the game & zero knowledge of the history of the game. I live in Miami & refuse to support that team.

  2. thenew013 - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Who??? I don’t pay attention until you get in the NBA with 7 game series. The best team ALWAYS wins. ALWAYS.

  3. legend30 - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    Tyler Ennis is sooooo overrated, he’s basically like Earl Watson.

    • sportsfan18 - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      Johnny Flynn II

    • lj312chicago - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Poor mans Kyrie Irving….

      • money2long - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:49 PM

        That’s pretty good

  4. 700levelvet - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Maybe he’s trying to hook his mom up….

  5. mcmccii - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    LeBron is not so good at anything else except playing ball. I wouldn’t put any stock into anything he says.

    • mckaymatt - Apr 8, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      Except you know…running businesses and making money.

      • money2long - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:50 PM

        He has a lot of help in that department

  6. flickflint - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Russ Smith will be better than Ennis

  7. whitehothoops89 - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Good thing Riles makes these decisions. However I cant blame LBJ, he hasn’t seen good PG play in years thanks to Rio, Noco, and Mike Bibby.

    • pharohislife - Apr 8, 2014 at 2:02 PM

      Don’t forget about the Great Carlos Arroyo haha.

  8. savvybynature - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    Napier really impressed me with his maturity and smarts in that game. He let the game come to him, tried to keep his teammates involved, and never seemed to be forcing anything for himself, but he was there to take the big shots when his team needed him. He really dictated the pace for UConn in the second half, and that was huge because they weren’t going to win a wide-open game with the superior athletes on Kentucky.
    I have no idea if that will translate into the pro game and his small stature is certainly going to work against him, but I wouldn’t count him out and I’ll be rooting for him to find some success.

  9. spursareold - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    LeBron making the same mistake as many NBA scouts, thinking that NCAA performance directly translates into the NBA. There are very few facets of the game that are direct transfers: 3 point shooting, rebounding, and steals. Just because you can break down some mid major team’s PG off the dribble doesn’t mean you can do that in the NBA.

    • zxrated - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, CP3, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and all of the many previous NBA experience legends whom spent some time with moderate success in the NCAA tourney would disagree. Experience matters.

      • money2long - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:51 PM

        Anti seems to think rondo was just as hyped as lebron James

  10. chunkala - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    I like LBJ but we would have drafterd Miles Simon in 1997 too.

  11. nicofthenorthstar - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    Amazing column here.
    You know what we need? MORE MeBron gossip. He is just SO fascinating.

  12. nicofthenorthstar - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Did Brony have eggs or oatmeal for breakfast?! And did he tweet about it?

  13. 1972wasalongtimeago - Apr 8, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Slightrd? It’s like saying that when you got married to your wife, you “slighted” Bar Rafaeli.

  14. xx1111 - Apr 8, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    He just wants to follow in his idol’s take on how to draft players… Him and MJ are one in the same.

  15. cantonbound13 - Apr 8, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    Did LeBron watch the whole thing or did he leave early like the bandwagoners tend to do?

  16. phaktor333 - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    Rio’s replacement. Watch.

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