2014 NBA Draft: Know The Prospect – Shabazz Napier


As we all know, the New York Knicks do not have a pick in the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday.

That being said, the Knicks are actively looking to acquire a pick in the late first round and second round. I went over how the Knicks may land a pick in the draft in Tyler Ennis’s draft profile so you can refer to that post or click here to review the scenarios.

Point guard play was absolutely atrocious last year and created so many problems for the rest of the team that it would be shocking if the Knicks didn’t address this glaring issue this offseason. Assuming Phil Jackson can work his magic, the Knicks should be able to select one in the 2014 NBA Draft. Hopefully there will be multiple options in this historically deep draft by the time the Knicks selection roles around.

One player to keep an eye on is UCONN’s point guard sensation Shabazz Napier. The 6’1″ 175 lb point guard lead the team in scoring at 18 points per game and dished out 4.9 assists per game as well. A four year player at UCONN, Napier is a mature and developed prospect that should be able to play immediately in the NBA. Let’s take a look at how Napier fits in with the Knicks.

Why Shabazz Napier is a Good Pick

There aren’t many players who were able to accomplish what Napier was able to during his collegiate career. The Husky point guard is coming off his second national title with this year’s team being the second lowest ranked seed (seventh) to ever win it all. Manning the point guard position on a young, inexperienced team will truly test your leadership skills. After not making the tournament last year, Napier made sure that wasn’t the case this year. Leadership ability? Check.

Defensively, Napier is a pest. His on ball defense is very good as he will pressure opposing players no matter where they are on the court. His nearly two steals per game shows his quick hands and his ability to force turnovers. If there is something the Knicks sorely missed this year, it was the ability for a point guard to prevent the opposition from scoring instead of escorting them to the basket. Good defensively? Check.

Offensively, Napier is very aggressive and really uses his above average quickness to beat his man. Even with his small size, Napier was able to get to the hoop at will and shot 43% from the field. One of his biggest improvements this past season was his ability to hit shots from all around the perimeter. For the year, Napier shot an astounding 40.5% from deep with many memorable ones coming in the tournament. The triangle offense functions best when the point guard is a good three point shooter. Good shooter/scorer? Check.

What Napier brings to the table more  than anyone else in this year’s draft is his tenacity. An absolute fearless player, Napier has the ability to take over the game at any point, no matter how poorly he started. A player who wants the ball at the end of the game and continuously makes the big shot is hard to come by. Napier would shine in the bright New York spotlight as he has had some of his biggest games in The World’s Most Famous Arena.

Why Shabazz Napier is Not a Good Pick

With all the positives that Shabazz Napier brings to the table, there are some shortcomings that may concern NBA scouts. One negative about Napier is his size. Only being 6’1″ could cause some mismatch problems with Napier in the NBA as he doesn’t have the wingspan (6’3″) to make up for his lack of size. Although he has a rather slender frame, he has more in game strength than shows on paper.

The biggest concern with Napier at the point guard position is his tendency to be very ball dominant. At UCONN, Napier was forced to be more aggressive offensively with the lack of offensive talent around him. That being said, he took 12.4 field goal attempts per game which isn’t horrendous, but it was usually the shot selection that came into question. As much as he is fearless, he has the tendency of letting that ego get in his way and force bad shots. Being in a pro system and playing along side an NBA superstar like Carmelo Anthony will hopefully allow him to erase this habit. If he doesn’t, we know a certain someone will let him know about it.

Verdict

Shabazz Napier is a fine basketball player. He can pass, he can score, he give effort and energy every night; he even averaged 5.9 rebounds a game as the smallest guy on the court! That mark would be good enough for third on the Knicks last season and twice as good as the Pillsbury Dough Boy himself, Raymond Felton.

Since I had the opportunity to not only see Napier play live, but also play against him multiple times, I would say he is well worth the Knicks’ pick. I never played against or alongside someone who wanted to win as bad as Napier, and his tenacity was always unmatched. If he is still there when the Knicks are picking (if they acquire the pick), expect a roar of approval from the crowd.

Check out some of Napier’s highlights.


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