Shabazz Napier moving up NBA draft boards, could be first-rounder

AP Photo

AP Photo

About a month ago, Shabazz Napier was a projected mid-second round pick, and some guy named Kels Dayton was wondering why he wasn’t getting any respect.

Funny how a month of giant-killing, big stage dominating, national championship-winning basketball can change things.

In this week’s mock draft, Napier is being projected to be selected 24th overall by Charlotte. The Bobcats, of course, are led by former UConn great and similarly charmed point guard Kemba Walker.

While it’s not likely the Bobcats would take Napier at that spot (because they’ve already got Kemba), it is encouraging that Napier’s name is finally ahead of guys like Xavier’s Semaj Christon and Nevada’s Deonte Burton.

Scouts are still concerned with Napier’s lack of size (he’s listed at 6-1, but is more like 5-11) and relative lack of athleticism. But there’s no question that his court vision, confidence and play-making ability has him becoming a more attractive draft pick.

Before UConn’s run to the national championship, scouts wondered about Napier’s shot selection, and dominance of the ball. Obviously, that was ridiculous. UConn fans knew that Napier was the heart and soul of the team, and that his decision-making ability was excellent.

College basketball writers agreed, naming Shabazz an Associated Press First Team All-American before the NCAA Tournament began.

Napier was the best player on the floor in every game he played in throughout the tournament, and willed UConn to the national title. NBA teams won’t have to worry about his maturity, or his work ethic. They won’t have to worry about his ability to shoot the three, either.

The NBA Draft is still more than two months away, but it’s clear that scouts are starting to respect Napier’s game.

He’s probably not going to be a star, and his name will never be mentioned among the best in the NBA.

But he can be a solid starter, and of course, a winner.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?

P.S. Shout out to my boy RJ Lemaire for starting the “Napier should be a first-round pick” crusade. We did it, buddy. Well, Shabazz did it. But maybe we helped.

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