Shabazz Napier was instrumental in leading Uconn to the men's college basketball national title over a run-and-gun Kentucky squad. He became the first player in NCAA history to cut down the nets as both a freshman AND a senior. And while Kemba Walker carried that 2011 title team to an improbable tournament victory, Napier learned from Walker and has developed his game to be much like that of former teammate Walker.
He has the automatic jump-shot that other Division I players can only dream of. And he's not just about scoring, he's constantly looking for an open man and/or an easy bucket. Napier will just randomly pull up from 30 feet away and effortlessly knock down a shot that not even Lebron James can hit %50 if the time.
He's also actively involved on the defensive end. He has quick hands that make him excellent at pick-pocketing an unsuspecting ball-handler and getting an easy bucket. When it comes to who will be the best player out of this year's highly-anticipated NBA Draft, I've been riding the bandwagon of Syracuse freshman Point Guard Tyler Ennis all year. I'm also pretty high on Australian Point Guard Dante Exum. But when I watch Shabazz Napier play I see Stephen Curry. (Curry is the best-shooter in today's game for those of you who don't know.)
Curry could also shoot from multiple feet behind the three-point line, and they both share a gift that cannot be taught: the ability to get the ball into the hands of an open man. Although Napier is currently projected to be a lottery pick, I'm hoping he'll miraculously slip down to my Pacers. But Napier hasn't always resembled Curry.
In his freshman year, he averaged just 7.8 points per game. However, that same year he had an above-average 50.7 true-shooting percentage (which factors in two-pointers, three-pointers, and free throws.) That total increased over his sophomore and junior years and this year he is having a career year with a true-shooting percentage of 59.1 percent and a career-high 18 points per game.
And another thing that he's benefited from is staying in college all four years. It's developed him into a much smarter, well-rounded player than he would have been if he'd left after his sophomore year.
The bottom line is: forget about Jabari Parker. This guy is the most NBA-ready player in the draft. He could be the next Stephen Curry, and if not, he still looks like a safe bet to be a strong 6th man.
In totally unrelated news:
The Indiana Pacers have regained the lead over the Miami Heat for the East's coveted #1 seed with just a few days left in the season.
What's this strange sensation I'm feeling?
As excited as I am for my Pacers, with upcoming games @ Miami and vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, they'll need to be at the top of their game to get home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs. But Coach Frank Vogel hasn't been able to find a way to get his team to play good basketball with any kind of consistency recently. He better figure something out before Friday night's clash with Miami, or it'll be another season down the drain in Indy.
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