Prospect Examination: Shabazz Napier

I want to get everybody’s attention right quick,” Napier said to the crowd. “If I don’t have your attention, let me get your attention. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at the Hungry Huskies. This is what happens when you ban us … last year … two years. We worked so hard for it. Two years and hungry. Hungry Huskies.

Shabazz Napier ended his tenure at UCONN the way he started it — with a NCAA Championship. As a freshmen, Napier was the substitute to Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker during their 2011 championship run and in 2014 he was the man of the team leading his squad to a 2014 NCAA Championship in spectacular fashion over the Kentucky Wildcats. Napier’s go-getter mentality was on display in March and April is the reason why the No. 7 seeded Huskies went on to upset all of their opponents en route to the championship game. Entering the season, Napier was thought of as a 2nd-round pick to being a undrafted player, and now he has the possibility of being a mid-late 1st-round pick.
Throughout March Madness, Napier had become the spokesperson for college athletes and the necessities they need to surviving on a day-to-day basis. The 22-year old said that there were nights in which he would go to sleep hungry despite being the top guy on campus; not being able to eat as much as he needs playing in games and practicing along with traveling. Napier wasn’t scourged by his stomach though with the performances he’s had put up.
We as students athletes get utilized for what we do so well, and were definitely best to get a scholarship to our universities. But at the end of the day, that doesnt cover everything. We do have hungry nights that we dont have enough money to get food in. Sometimes money is needed. I dont think you should stretch it out to hundreds of thousands of dollars for playing, because a lot of times guys dont know how to handle themselves with money.
I feel like a student athlete. Sometimes, theres hungry nights where Im not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities. I dont see myself as so much of an employee, but when you see your jersey getting sold, it may not have your last name on it, but when you see your jersey getting sold, to some credit, you feel like you want something in return.
Napier showed that he doesn’t have eye-popping athletic ability but is good on his feet with nimble movements. Throughout the tournament he showcased his scoring and shot-making ability throughout the tournament and when needed, he would convert on a clutch shot.
At 6-foot-1 maybe shorter (5-foot-11 without shoes), Napier showed a innate ability to get the ball to his teammates in the right place which wasn’t the case his first two years. In Napier’s first two collegiate seasons he was more known for his questionable shot selection and had setting up his teammates in the back of his mind. That could have been attributed to the way he was coached at the time. Jim Calhoun coached him his first two seasons and former NBA journeymen Kevin Ollie coaches him his last two years.
On the offensive end, Napier has a nice looking shot and gets it off quickly and has shown his range beyond the three-point line. If he isn’t going to the paint or taking a three-point shot, then he’s taking a mid-range in which he is making more difficult than needed. He has improved his shot selection over his four-year career and has the confidence that any shot he takes is going in and won’t become fazed if his shot isn’t going through the net. Since Napier is undersized, a big advantage he will have in the NBA is his ability to use and come off screens if it will lead to a pass or him taking the shot. He also has a nice crossover to his advantage with his quickness to leave his defenders in the dust.
The Roxbury, Massachusetts native played adequate defense over his four-years as he averaged 1.8 steals throughout his collegiate career. Along with being 6-foot-1, Napier has diminutive wingspan at 6-foot-2 which will make him a liability on the defense end against the premier Point Guards of the NBA. His small stature will make him a easy target for bigger and more athletic guards ala Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose etc. Napier will need to become a system defensive player if he wants to play bulk minutes in the NBA but it’s also worth noting that he has great defensive awareness and has great lateral movement.  
Along with being small, Napier has another disadvantage and that’s him being a senior – can’t believe that’s a disadvantage. In the NBA it is believed by many that if you’re a senior then your already fully developed into a player and you don’t have much more room to improve. Napier is “old” since he’s older than Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Michael Carter-Williams etc. A recent player who has demolished expectations placed on him due to him wanting a education and maximizing his scholarship were Blazer guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. To me, Napier using all years of his eligibility shows that he’s ready for any moment he’s put in and any franchise should know what they are getting which is a leader on the court and great representation of the team off of it.
Napier also showed great loyalty to UCONN despite the team being on probation and ineligible for the tournament. He had the opportunity to transfer but decided to stay with the Huskies through the tough year. Whichever team drafts Napier, they’ll end up with a stud that can put the ball in the hole and isn’t shaken by the moment but is more than happy to excel in it but his age and physique is a disadvantage. The young man has the toughness and heart to do what he can on the court after averaging almost six rebounds per contest, which also shows that he can impact the game in multitude of ways. To me Napier will become a solid backup in the NBA and will provide energy needed to wherever ends up It will be interesting to see where Napier ends up on June 26th, and of Adam Silver is calling his name in the 1st-round or if it’s Mark Tatum saying it in the 2nd-round.

NBA Comparisons: J.J Barea, Reggie Jackson
Best fits: Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Bobcats or Utah Jazz

Clevis Murray

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s