The 2014 NCAA Tournament was like a bit of déjà vu for UConn. They spent the majority of the season showing potential, but never quite living up to it. When tournament play began, though, they started to click and were led by a veteran point guard. The ending for the story was a National Championship. The only difference is that it was Shabazz Napier instead of Kemba Walker leading the Huskies this year.
Over his senior season, Napier was the lifeblood for the Huskies. The point guard put up 18 points, 4.9 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 42.9 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from three. He raised his performance for March Madness, though, scoring 19 or more in five of UConn’s six games, shooting 20-43 from long-range, and averaging 4.5 assists per game.
As Napier now looks to the 2014 NBA Draft, though, teams are still torn on him. According to most mock drafts, there’s a good chance that Napier could drop out of the first round. If he does go in the first round, there’s almost no chance he’s selected in or near the lottery. In any regard, Napier has sleeper written all over him.
Napier is far from a perfect prospect and I don’t believe that you can include him in the same class as Dante Exum or Tyler Ennis. He’s worked in this regard, but he still needs to become a better distributor and not look to score as his primary option, though he is a talented shooter. However, Napier does need to diversify his offensive game and become less careless with the ball.
I’m not saying that Napier is going to be the next Stephen Curry or Kyrie Irving by any means. However, he’s too talented of a scorer with too much experience and poise to not have success in the NBA. He has the potential to be a terrific scoring guard off of the bench, much like Isaiah Thomas who almost went undrafted when he came into the league as the 60th pick.
His shortcomings definitely warrant his draft-stock taking somewhat of a hit. Even with that, though, he has too much going for him for me to not buy into him. Whether he goes in the second round or late in the first, Napier has all the makings of a player that we’ll look back at in a few years and wonder how he wasn’t selected higher.