Shabazz Napier was the story of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. He threw his Connecticut team on his back and led the seventh-seeded Huskies to a championship with a 60-54 win over a heavily-favored Kentucky team. After a fantastic four-year career, now Napier will be looking forward to the 2014 NBA Draft.
No one improved his draft stock in this year’s tournament more than Napier, but until a few weeks ago he looked like a fringe second-rounder. Now he’s elevated himself to possible first-round status. What follows is a detailed breakdown of Napier’s draft stock and what he will bring to the NBA team that selects him.
Napier measures in at right around six feet and 170 pounds, so he’s small for the league. His best asset is his toughness and leadership, which was on full display during this year’s tournament. He’s an elite defender, despite his lack of size, as everyone who faced him this March and April found out. Napier is also a great scorer who can shoot from anywhere on the court, and has near-unlimited range. He can get into the lane and do damage there as well.
The 22-year-old has amazing ball-handling skills and his crossover is a thing of beauty. He has a quick first step and if he gets on a defender’s hip, he’s going past them. Despite his size, Napier is also an excellent rebounder.
The biggest thing working against Napier is his lack of size. He’s small for a pure point guard and extremely undersized if he’s going to be a scoring guard at the next level. He’s also a streaky scorer who can get frustrated at times. He also doesn’t create for his teammates and is more of a pure scorer than a creator.
He’s also just an average athlete, so he won’t wind up playing bigger than his size.
Napier led Connecticut in points (18.0), assists (4.9) and was second in rebounds (5.9) per game this season. He was able to do all of that mostly through his determination. He’s a mature leader who became the heart and soul of his team on both ends of the floor. He also averaged 21.2 points per game in the tournament and made 20 3-pointers.
Right now Napier is probable the fourth-best point guard in this year’s draft, behind Dante Exum, Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis. He’ll likely wind up as a great second-unit point guard in the NBA.