Shabazz Napier, the 2014 NBA Draft Prospect
One position that the Lakers desperately need to strengthen, either in the upcoming NBA draft or free agency window, is the Point Guard. Following persistent injuries to the ageing backcourt duo of Steve Nash and Steve Blake, the roster is calling out for a young ball handler to bring a fresh set of legs to the court. If they do not acquire such player in the first round of the draft with their prospective lottery pick, the Lakers certainly could look to the second and find Shabazz Napier, a 22 year-old, 6’2 shooter who could provide a perfect rotation option for a team pining for players at the point. Something of an icon for the Connecticut Huskies, Napier has enjoyed three full years of college basketball and is currently playing at a career and team high level in his fourth. He leads the Huskies in points, rebounds and assists and has played a pivotal role in forming their 17-4 record so far this season. Whilst college fans are more than likely enjoying their last few months of watching Shabazz, what do NBA fans have to be excited about when he potentially joins the league next season?
Napier is a shooter through and through. He’s got a great ability to create space for himself and has an instinctive sense for making offense. This year, he’s developed into an excellent shooter from range converting .435% of his shots from beyond the arc, a marked improvement on his .398% numbers from last season. His catch and shoot game is wonderfully on point and this allows him to maximise his efficiency down the stretch, another one of his distinctive traits. The boy has ice running through his veins……or at least until the buzzer sounds. Shabazz carries an atrocious eye for where to shoot the ball with many of his deep, contested jumpers coming with plenty of time still available on the clock. His decision making remains one of the most questionable areas to his game as his incessant dribbling can lead to unnecessary turnovers (he’s averaging 2.9 per 40). Whilst his vision of the court and basketball IQ does seem to be developing (averaging a career high 5.7 assists per game this year), he is still far too willing to take a shot for himself rather than spread the ball to his surrounding team mates, a habit he may have to buck in some potential NBA suitors.
Napier’s age could also be an attractive asset for teams looking to acquire him at the end of the season. He’s been averaging over 22 minutes a game since his joined the Huskies and has always played an influential role in their team. This culmination of experience means that he would certainly be able to contribute to a team right from the start of his NBA career. With a national championship also to his name, he knows what it’s like to win. However if he wants to win big in the NBA, he will more than certainly need to improve his defense. Due to his lack of physicality, he finds himself unable to guard and match work rates with some of his targets (this could be a massive problem in the professional game). Whilst he’s not necessarily slow, he often releases his guard when a player has made himself one or two strides ahead of him and takes a lazy attitude towards a defensive challenge. He is essentially useless at controlling penetration and this could well result in him sacrificing a place in a starting five. Due to these very physical weaknesses, he’s also a poor finisher at the rim. He converts under 40% of his drives to the paint, mostly due to his lack of length and 6’4 wingspan. This would definitely be a problem for him in the league and as a player who lives and dies by his jumpshot, he may be seen as too one-dimensional for many offensive systems.
Although these problems don’t seem to be ironing themselves out of his game willingly, Napier certainly has an (already present) offensive stroke unique to somebody that is likely to be drafted as late as he is. A team drafting him would have little to lose. With comparisons being drawn between him and Kemba Walker, Napier could certainly add an offensive punch to any NBA bench needing some points from their reserves. With work, he could certainly be an invaluable sixth man to some NBA franchises.
- Impressively efficient scorer who can shoot from almost anywhere.
- Unselfish and appreciates a total offensive game rather than only his point tally.
- One dimensional style of play, relies far too heavily on his jumpshot. 72% of his points come from a jumper.
- Lazy defender. Poor game here could cost him big.
- Good passer but needs to look for his team mates even more, especially when a better shot is available than the one he has.