Miami Heat Point Guard Preview: Shabazz Napier


Analyzing Last Year’s Performance

Drafted twenty-fourth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, 23-year-old Shabazz Napier will officially start his professional basketball career as a member of the Miami Heat. The 6-foot-1-inch Massachusetts native is Miami’s newest point guard, joining Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.

Napier previously spent four years at the University of Connecticut where he won two national championships in 2011 and 2014. Throughout his time as a UConn Husky, he made both the Big East All Rookie Team and the All-Big East first team; he was also named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year after being selected for the All-AAC first team. In 2014, Napier closed out his college days as the NCAA tournament’s most outstanding player.

Being only the ninth player in school history to record a double-double, Napier is also the only player in UConn history with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 250 steals, putting him in fourth place on UConn’s scoring chart.

Obviously the guy can shoot, but what is more impressive is his ability to share the ball and be smart defensively. His energy is also unbeatable, giving every play his all. However, it is a well-known fact that the transition from college ball to the pros is never easy, and so far Napier seems to still be adjusting to the new environment.

How LeBron’s Departure Impacts His Role

Most players in the league, rookies and veterans alike, could learn a lot from having a guy like LeBron James on his team. Having backed up Kemba Walker during his freshman season, Napier is definitely the type of athlete to learn from the best.

Although James may no longer be around, it would be highly beneficial for Napier to get close to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Even having Cole take Napier under his wing would help ease the rookie into the new lifestyle; it may also give him the drive to have an even more accomplished first season than Cole did.

It will be key for Napier to take on the responsibility of soaking up everything around him, now that superstar James is out of the picture.

Projections for this Season

It is hard to say how much playing time Napier will see this season, with Chalmers back in the rotation and Cole being solid off the bench. As it stands, the Heat seem to favor Chalmers to start, with Cole as second-string and Napier as his substitute. However, Cole may prove himself as a strong contender and Napier is better rounded than Chalmers, bringing both offense and a high basketball IQ to the court.

Chalmers certainly struggled last postseason, with many wondering if he would even be back, but at the end of the day he does have experience on his side. Who will do what at point guard this year will depend on a multitude of factors such as Chalmers’ potentially new-found role, Cole’s consistency and how fast Napier becomes adjusted to the game.

One thing is for sure though, Napier is not going to take this opportunity for granted, and has already begun to put in the necessary work.

“Why I’m Excited” – Wes Goldberg

At first, I wanted to Heat to draft Shabazz Napier because LeBron wanted the Heat to draft Shabazz Napier. I made up mock drafts to try to figure out how Napier would fall to us, but ultimately realized it just wasn’t going to happen. This guy was too good! But then he fell all the way to the Hornets and Riley pulled off a deal to get LeBron his guy. Then LeBron left and we still have Napier. I’m okay with this. The Heat have been missing a binge scorer for a while now and Napier can come in and work some magic. He gives Miami something to play with, something to develop. A bonafide first-round pick. In this new era in Miami, Erik Spoelstra will have to develop some young guys to keep his team competitive. Napier is project one.

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