Jeremy Lamb runs the handshake (pre)game

Jeremy Lamb’s hands have gotten some serious publicity of late… I just hope non-UConn fans realize this is not the most famous Lamb-shake (see below).

THE REAL LAMB SHAKE

Although my favorite pre-game handshake routine still belongs to Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith, seen here at the 3:25 mark of the 2011 Final Four intros…

Google Hangout with Charlie Villanueva

I did my first Google Hangout yesterday with former UConn National Champion and 9 year NBA vet Charlie Villanueva of the Dallas Mavericks. Villanueva was a McDonald’s All-American out of Blair Academy (NJ), leading Blair to 3 straight Mid-Atlantic Prep League Tournament Championships. As a freshman, Charlie was a key contributor to the 2004 UConn National Championship team averaging 8 points/5 rebounds. That team, arguably the most talented team in UConn history, included future NBA players Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Josh Boone, Marcus Williams and Hilton Armstrong. Following a solid sophomore campaign, Charlie declared for the 2005 NBA Draft where he was taken 7th overall by the Toronto Raptors.

My Questions

4:15- Who had a more impressive championship run, Kemba or Shabazz?

19:25- Imagine a Final Four of all UConn Championship teams- who wins?

Learning from Champions: A Comparison of Boatright, Napier and Walker through 5 games

Jessica Hill, AP

Jessica Hill, AP

Shabazz Napier was entrusted with the same responsibility Kemba Walker had before him- lead the UConn Huskies to a National Championship while doing, well, basically everything. By now, we know what it will take emotionally for Ryan Boatright to return us to the promised land, we witnessed it with Walker and Napier. Instead, let’s examine what it takes statistically.

Taking into consideration unpredictable variables such as team chemistry, opponent and injury/suspension, the three situations are eerily similar. Don’t believe me? Below are game logs from Kemba’s 2011, Napier’s 2014 and Boatright’s 2015. Try to guess which season belongs to which player (answer at bottom of page):

MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
34 6 17 35% 1 4 25% 5 6 83% 6 3 1 2 18
37 15 24 63% 4 9 44% 8 10 80% 8 3 3 1 42
23 8 16 50% 1 4 25% 14 15 93% 2 2 0 3 31
38 10 19 53% 4 11 36% 6 7 86% 3 4 4 3 30
38 10 17 59% 3 4 75% 6 6 100% 2 6 2 2 29
MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
33 5 12 42% 2 3 67% 6 6 100% 7 7 3 2 18
37 5 7 71% 1 1 100% 3 5 60% 11 10 1 1 14
22 3 4 75% 1 1 100% 3 4 75% 8 8 3 1 10
38 3 9 33% 2 2 100% 4 4 100% 12 6 3 2 12
38 6 17 35% 0 3 0% 8 10 80% 4 2 0 1 20
MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
37 7 15 47% 3 6 50% 7 7 100% 8 5 3 4 24
37 6 14 43% 1 4 25% 6 6 100% 6 5 3 0 19
36 6 12 50% 0 2 0% 8 9 89% 5 4 3 3 20
35 6 14 43% 0 4 0% 5 9 56% 5 4 3 0 17
37 8 21 38% 1 5 20% 7 8 88% 7 2 2 1 24

While all three guards undoubtedly possess their own unique strengths, they are one of the same mold- inspiring defensively, unrelenting offensively with a knack for hitting the big shot. What separated both Napier and Walker was their ability to balance top play-maker with primary scoring option. Boatright will need to strike a similar balance for his name to be hoisted at Gampel following the season. Throughout the year I will compare Boatright’s numbers, to those of Napier and Walker at similar points in their championship winning season, in hopes the statistics give an early indication on what Boatright needs to do in order to bring another National Championship to Storrs, Connecticut. Eventually, once more data is collected, we can learn from the adjustments of past champions to fill the spot next to Napier’s banner.

Averages through 5 games:

Player MP FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS WINS
Walker 34 52% 41% 88% 4.2 3.6 2.0 2.2 30.0 5
Boatright 36.4 44% 19% 86% 6.2 4.0 2.8 1.6 20.8 3
Napier 33.6 51% 73% 83% 8.4 6.6 2.0 1.4 14.8 5

Here is how Boatright, Napier and Walker shape up head-to-head-to-head on a number of different statistics:

MP FG% 3P% FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
Boatright  36.4 Walker 52% Napier    73% Walker         8.8 Walker  88% Napier       8.4 Napier 6.6 Boatright 2.8 Walker   2.2 Walker     30
Walker      34 Napier   51% Walker    41% Boatright     7.8 Boatright 86% Boatright 6.2 Boatright 4 Napier        2 Boatright-1.6 Boatright 20.8
Napier    33.6 Boatright 44% Boatright 19% Napier          5.8 Napier     83% Walker     4.2 Walker 3.6 Walker        2 Napier    1.4 Napier   14.8

Breakdown of categories led:

  • Boatright: Minutes, Turnovers
  • Napier: 3P%, Rebounds, Assists
  • Walker: FG%, FTA, FT%, Steals, Points

Notes:

  • Kemba’s numbers are more impressive (if possible) when you consider they came against #2 Michigan State (Kalin Lucas/Korie Lucious) and #7 Kentucky (Brandon Knight).
  • To no surprise Shabazz is by far the best three point shooter
  • Though it felt Napier and Walker never rested, Boatright leads in minutes
  • All three are shooting over 80% from the foul line
  • Napier easily led in rebounds and assists

1). Walker

2). Napier

3). Boatright

UConn Basketball: Keys to the 2014/15 Season

 (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

November is here once again which means the return of my favorite season, college basketball. Here are a few keys for UConn to repeat as National Champions. It starts (and ends), of course, with point guard Ryan Boatright.

Ryan Boatright

This is finally Ryan Boatright’s team. Two years ago, I would’ve cringed at this idea but today I am much more comfortable given his progression. Here are two subplots to look for concerning Boatright this season:

Leadership

We know Boat can drive, we know Boat can defend- but can he lead? This is the most important question of the season and in my opinion, the biggest indicator of success. If you look at the last two National Championship runs, it was not the tremendous play of Kemba and Shabazz that made the difference but the leadership they exhibited. Both were able to elevate the performance of their teammates, whether it was making the extra pass or an inspiring defensive stop. A telling sign will be body language. Pay attention to Boatright after a missed defensive assignment or botched layup- does he throw his hands up in disgust or encourage his teammate with a pat on the back? We need the latter.

Boatright/Purvis floor relationship

I think we can all remember the painful offensive sets in the beginning of the Napier/Boatright years- long possessions ending in a deep 3 or forced drives into traffic trying to draw contact. Either way it hurt the eyes to watch. It took Boatright and Napier 2.5 years to learn to complement each other. Boatright and Purvis don’t have that luxury. While Purvis could not suit up for the Huskies last year following his transfer, he practiced with the team everyday which should eliminate some of the learning curve. We need both to perform, but most importantly, we need them to complement each other.

Identity

Top Dogs vs Underdogs

Last year we were the Hungry Huskies, the underdog, the misfits. This year, as defending National Champions, the expectations are much higher. Playing as the underdog is much different than playing as the defending National Champions. We have a target on our back. It is essential we keep the same hunger while avoiding a championship hangover. Humble Huskies. With Kevin Ollie behind the wheel you know we will defend and you know we will compete, that is a given. However, with different pieces than last year it remains to be seen how the puzzle fits together. Early season tests against Duke and Florida will be a good gauge.

Emergence of Role Players

We need to defend and we need to rebound for 40 minutes over a span of 6 months. It doesn’t matter who the production comes from, it just needs to be there night in and night out for the duration of the season. It could take the whole season to learn the shape of the puzzle but we know the result when all pieces fit come tournament time.

Inside Presence

Amida Brimah is good. Really good. We know Brimah can defend the basket but can he do so without getting himself in foul trouble? If so, he has the potential to be a lottery pick in next years NBA Draft. If not, Philip Nolan, Kentan Facey and newcomer Rakim Lubin will need to pick up the slack. Keep a close eye on the Brimah- Jahlil Okafor matchup when UConn battles Duke in mid-December. Every big time player has a breakout game against a big time talent on a big time stage (Kemba in Maui, Bazz vs Florida). This could very well be Brimah’s coming out party.

Resiliency

In 2011 we lost 4 out of 5 games entering postseason play. In 2014 we were manhandled by Louisville before the AAC tournament. As any season, this season will have its highs and lows. A team is not defined by their lows, a team is defined by their response. I am less concerned with the blowout loss and more concerned with the attitude at practice the following day. Resiliency starts with leadership which brings us back to my first point: Ryan Boatright.

 

UConn stars return for 2014 Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic

7,000+ crowded Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night for the 2014 Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic. Featuring heroes of UConn past, the game is more than just a UConn All-Star game, but raises money and awareness for the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the UConn Health Center. According to their website, the charity is dedicated to “research on new non-invasive techniques to diagnose and treat patients at risk for heart disease and also endows a cardiology research fellowship.” Since 1999 the Celebrity Classic has raised over $6.5 million for cardiology research. You can learn more here and like the event on Facebook.

Jim Calhoun watches his charity game.

Jim Calhoun watches his charity game.

Friday’s game featured current NBA players Andre Drummond, Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Jeff Adrien, Ben Gordon, Jeremy Lamb and Charlie Villanueva as well as former stars Taliek Brown, Khalid El-Amin and Donyell Marshall. The White Team came away with a dramatic 114-112 victory on an all-but-too-familiar game winner from ’99 Champ El-Amin. Drummond led a stacked White Team with 24 points/12 rebounds while Walker (21 points), DeAndre Daniels (18), Allen (15) and El-Amin (13) all scored in double figures. Villanueva led the Blue Team dropping 24 points with Rashad Anderson (22), Lamb (21 points/8 rebounds) providing help in the scoring department and Jeff Adrien (12/13) handling the dirty work as usual. Lamb was originally on the White Team roster but crossed sides after Rudy Gay was was deemed ineligible due to language in his contract with the Sacramento Kings. It should be noted that although Gay was unable to participate in the game, he is rumored to have dropped $80,000 on a private plane to sit on the bench and support the cause. Caron Butler and Shabazz Napier were not in attendance due to prior commitments.

Pictures below:

Ray Allen Pregame

Ray Allen Pregame

Tip Off

Tip off at the 2014 Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic.

Andre Drummond rises for a dunk at the 2014 Jim Calhoun Charity Classic.

Andre Drummond rises for a dunk at the 2014 Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic.

Rudy Gay poses for a selfie with Jeremy Lamb.

Rudy Gay poses for a selfie with Jeremy Lamb.

After party with Kemba Walker

After party with Kemba Walker

2014 Las Vegas Summer League Recap

Summer League

The  Sacramento Kings won the 2014 Las Vegas Summer League earlier this week, featuring newly acquired Alex Oriahki at the center position (sneak peak into celebration below). Oriahki was just one of a slew of former Huskies participating in Vegas this summer. Others included Deandre Daniels (Toronto Raptors), Jerome Dyson (Charlotte Hornets), Niels Giffey (Utah Jazz), Shabazz Napier (Miami Heat) and Roscoe Smith (Los Angeles Lakers). Here are the complete statistics from Vegas:

Player

G

GS MPG FG% 3P% RPG APG SPG TO

PPG

Daniels

5 5 21.4 .36 .26 6.2 .2 .4 1.8

10

Dyson

4 0 16.8 .22 .22 1.3 1.3 0.0 2.8 3.8

Giffey

5 0 12.2 .25 .17 1.8 .6 .6 .6 3.4

Napier

4 4 27 .28 .250 1.3 2.8 2.5 3.5

10.3

Oriahki 4 4 12.5 .40 0.0 3.0 .5 0.0 1.5

2.8

Smith 5 0 12.8 .56 0.0 2.2 0.0 0.0 .4

5.0

 

Deandre Daniels

Getty Images

Getty Images

Out of all UCONN players in the two summer leagues, it is safe to say Deandre Daniels was the most consistent. Starting all five games at small forward for the Raptors, Daniels contributed UCONN-esque numbers of 10 points/6 rebounds per game. In a July 18th win versus the LA Clippers, Daniels registered a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Although roughly half of Daniels field goal attempts were from deep, he led the team in rebounding, proving he is not content to just hover on the perimeter but ready to mix it up in the middle. Already leading the team in rebounding, when he packs muscle onto his scrawny frame, Daniels will be a force. It has been rumored he will play this upcoming season overseas which will give him time to mature before returning to the Raptors next season.

Jerome Dyson

July 10th Jerome Dyson signed with Dinamo Sassari of the Italian Series A League, according to Sportando. The same release stated Dyson had an NBA out in his contract until July 23, allowing him to sign with a NBA team if his performance in the summer league won him a roster spot. Unfortunately for Dyson, he was stuck behind first-round pick PJ Hairston on the depth chart and averaged only 4 points in 17 minutes of play. Dyson will return to Italy next season teaming up with former Louisville guard Edgar Sosa and BC/Fairfield transfer Rakim Sanders. The club is a newcomer to the Euroleague (European NBA) and hopes to boost their championship aspirations with the addition of Dyson who averaged 17 points/4 rebounds with Enel Brindisi (Italian Series A) a season ago.

Niels Giffey

Following two summer leagues where he struggled to find playing time, Niels Giffey has signed in Germany.

Shabazz Napier

Player G GS MPG FG% 3P% RPG APG SPG TO PPG
Napier (LVSL) 4 4 27 .28 .250 1.3 2.8 2.5 3.5 10.3
Napier (OSL) 5 5 27.6 .273 .154 3.0 4.6 1.8 4.8 9.2

Here is a comparison of Napier’s statistics from the OSL to the LVSL. In Vegas, Napier shot the ball better (it couldn’t have gotten much worse) and his turnovers were down, but he averaged only 2.8 assists per game, third on the Heat. As I wrote earlier, I am not worried by Napier’s struggles. The learning curve is much sharper for a point guard and especially in a summer league setting with players hailing from all over the world and little time to practice offensive sets. Another point to consider: Napier finalized his contract at the end of the summer league. With this final distraction off his mind it will be all basketball from now until training camp.

Alex Oriahki

AO Kings Gear

AO’s Kings Gear

July 12th the Sacramento Kings acquired the draft rights to Oriahki in exchange for guard Isaiah Thomas. Oriahki was drafted by the Suns in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft but the Suns’ talented front court forced him to begin the season overseas. Oriahki started 4 games for the Kings in Vegas, averaging 3 points, 3 rebounds and 1 block per contest. This block against Cameron Bairstow and the Chicago Bulls made it to nba.com’s summer league highlights. This season, Oriahki faces another uphill battle to make a Kings roster featuring  veterans Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Reggie Evans and Jason Thompson. If he is unable to make the Kings roster this year, Oriahki will return overseas or play another year with a D League affiliate.

Roscoe Smith

Undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, Smith earned an invite to play with the Lakers in Vegas. Scoe averaged 5 points and 2 rebounds in 13 minutes per game, playing with his typical high energy and intensity. Smith is a long shot to make a NBA roster this season and will most likely play overseas.

 

Sacramento Kings Championship Celebration via Snap Chat:

Kings Celebrate Championship

The Sacramento Kings celebrate their championship

2014 Orlando Summer League Recap

nba.com

nba.com

The 2014 Orlando Summer League ended July 11 with the Philadelphia 76ers taking home the trophy at the expense of Memphis. The OSL featured Shabazz Napier (Miami Heat), Jeremy Lamb (OKC Thunder), Niels Giffey (Memphis Grizzlies) and Lasan Kromah (Brooklyn Nets). Orlando was not particularly kind to the former Huskies, Giffey and Kromah struggled to find minutes playing behind team investments while Lamb and Napier laid bricks. Here are complete player statistics from Orlando and a closer look at Lamb/Napier’s numbers:

Player G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG TO PPG
Lamb 3 3 31.3 .32 .174 .80 5.3 1.7 1.3 2.7 17.3
Napier 5 5 27.6 .273 .154 .80 3.0 4.6 1.8 4.8 9.2
Giffey 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Kromah 1 0 7.0 .33 0.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 2.0

Jeremy-Lamb-summer-league

nba.com

Jeremy Lamb

You can’t look at Lamb’s statistics without two numbers sticking out, 32 and 17. Lamb shot a horrid 4-23 (17%) from deep in 3 games and only 32% from the field overall. With such a silky stroke, those numbers are unfathomable. On the plus side, he did fill up the box score for the Thunder while playing 31 minutes per game, good for third in the league. Lamb’s 17.3 scoring mark (6th overall) and 80% from the free throw line at least show he can get to the line and put points on the board even when his shot is off. Conditioning may also have been a factor in the poor shooting- Lamb will by nothing but net once again by the start of the year.

espn.com

espn.com

Shabazz Napier 

Similar to Lamb, Shabazz Napier struggled shooting the ball in his first summer league. Napier shot only 27% from the field and a sub-Lamb 15% from three. What could possibly be more shocking than that? 3P% was not even the most alarming statistic. It’s 4.8. That is the number of turnovers Napier averaged in 5 OSL games, including 8 in a match-up with Celtics first-round pick Marcus Smart. Though that is unusually high, I am not worried about the turnovers- Napier can handle the basketball, we all know that. It takes time to adjust to the speed of the game and that is all he needs, time. If anything, Napier’s ability to battle through the turnovers and shooting troubles and still have the confidence to make plays (4.6 apg), defend (1.8 spg) and score the basketball (9.2 ppg on 80 ft%) should serve as a positive.  

2014 Las Vegas Summer League

The Sacramento Kings, featuring newly acquired center Alex Oriahki, have won the 2014 Las Vegas Summer League. Stay tuned for a recap of all UCONN players in Vegas including Jerome Dyson, Deandre Daniels and Shabazz Napier…

UCONN in the 2014 Orlando NBA Summer League

nba.com

nba.com

A number of former UCONN players will participate in the 2014 NBA Summer League, held in Orlando (July 5-11) and Las Vegas (July 11-21). The Orlando league will feature Shabazz Napier (Miami Heat), Jeremy Lamb (OKC Thunder), Niels Giffey (Memphis Grizzlies) and Lasan Kromah (Brooklyn Nets) with all games taking place at the Amway Center, the Orlando Magic practice court. Teams will play 5 games in 7 days with a championship game held on July 11th. A point system determines the standings with 4 points awarded to the winning team and 1 point awarded to the winner of each quarter, for a total of 8 potential points per game.

Storylines

Niels Giffey flew under the radar for much of the season at UCONN despite leading the AAC in three point shooting percentage. The summer league provides a great opportunity for players to show their stuff in front of an audience that includes personnel from every NBA team. Jeremy Lin is a great example of a player who turned a strong summer league showing in a multi-million dollar contract. I believe Giffey has NBA talent, by July 11th we will know if NBA teams feel the same.

Shabazz Napier was selected by the Miami Heat with the 24th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Many believe this was directly influenced by the team’s desire to retain superstar forward LeBron James, a huge advocate of Napier. King James believed Napier should have been the first point guard taken in the draft and I completely agree. Napier will get his first chance to prove he is the top point guard in the draft class when he battles 6th overall pick Marcus Smart and the Boston Celtics tomorrow at 11am.

Jeremy Lamb is a star in the making for the OKC Thunder. With two full seasons under his belt, Lamb will transition into a third scoring option to complement the dynamic Westbrook/Durant duo. After finishing in the top three in scoring during last year’s summer league (18.8ppg), look for Lamb to take home the scoring title in 2014. Also, on a team featuring Lamb, Perry Jones III (Baylor) and Steven Adams (Pitt)- don’t be surprised if OKC runs through the competition along their inevitable path to the championship game.

Games to look forward to…

Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics, July 5th, 11AM: Key MatchupNapier vs Smart

Memphis Grizzlies vs OKC Thunder, July 5th, 5PM: Giffey vs Lamb

OKC Thunder vs Brooklyn Nets, July 7th, 7PM: Lamb vs Kromah

Miami Heat vs Detroit Pistons, July 8th, 5PM: Napier vs Peyton Siva (Louisville)

Full Schedule

Here is the complete lineup of the 2014 Orlando Summer League, courtesy of nba.com.

 

I will post recaps of all the games and video links as (or if) they are available. All games will be televised on NBA TV.

 

Final predictions on the 2014 NBA Draft

A month ago I evaluated the prospects of draft hopefuls Shabazz Napier, Deandre Daniels and Niels Giffey. Here is a look back at those projections and where I ultimately believe they will be selected:

Draft Projections: Shabazz Napier

According to scouts present at the combine, Napier’s performance solidified a first round selection. Here are some possible destinations that stand out:

  • 17th pick, Boston Celtics: Hometown kid on the hometown team is always an inspiring story line.
  • 26th pick, Miami Heat: LeBron tweeted: “No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.” Starting point guard Mario Chalmers is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, if Napier were still available you know who LeBron wants…
  • 28th pick, Los Angeles Clippers: Current backup Darren Collison has a player option for next season. Like Collison, Napier is a pesky defender who would benefit under the tutelage of Chris Paul while he develops.

Update: The Miami Heat are my favorite to select Shabazz Napier. There has been much publicity regarding LeBron James support of Napier and the Heat will do anything they can to please their superstar forward. Look for the Heat to move up in the draft as it is unlikely Napier will fall to the 26th pick. 

Draft Projections: Deandre Daniels

Deandre Daniels has the talent to be a late first round draft pick. On the other hand, scouts see him as a second round selection due to his pencil-thin frame and lack of strength. In a draft full of talented small forwards, Daniels’ performance in workouts will ultimately seal his fate. In my opinion, Deandre is one of the most underrated players in the draft and could make an impact for a contender after a season in the D-League. Here are some possible destinations:

  • 25th pick, Houston Rockets: The Rockets have the flexibility to allow Daniels a season in the D-League to bulk up on a NBA strength training regimen.
  • 35th pick, Utah Jazz: Young at every position the Jazz can go after the best player available which at this point in the draft, could be Daniels.
  • 43rd pick, Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks need a perimeter scorer, if they don’t fill this need in the first round look for them to fill it here.

Update: Daniels is an intriguing prospect as his NBA career is based mostly off potential. He is largely considered one of the biggest steals in the draft however was left off Chad Ford’s latest mock draft. Daniels could go as early as late first round or possibly slide out of the draft. With Josh Smith’s future up in the air, look for the Pistons to take a chance on Daniels with the 38th pick. 

Draft Projections: Niels Giffey

Analysts have Giffey anywhere from late second round to undrafted. As an underexposed role player, workouts will only help Giffey get his name out there. Scouts at the Portsmouth Invitational came away impressed and there is no reason to believe that trend will not continue. Here are some second round opportunities for Giffey:

  • 32nd, 39th, 47th, 52nd or 54th, Philadelphia 76ers: With five second round picks to go along with two lottery picks, the 76ers can address immediate needs and plan for the future.
  • 58th or 60th, San Antonio Spurs: Giffey is the epitome of a role player on a team of role players.  
  • New York Knicks: With no draft picks and change on the horizon, the Knicks could look to make moves. 

Update: I am torn here between the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks. In a blockbuster move yesterday, the Knicks acquired the 34th and 51st picks, among others, from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Tyson Chandler. The Knicks have been known to take chances on European players in the past, however Giffey fits perfectly into San Antonio’s organizational philosophy. Still, look for the Knicks to take their chances on Giffey with the 51st pick.

  

Shabazz Napier 2014 NBA Draft Combine Recap

Image

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The NBA Draft Combine, a two day event held last week in Chicago, gives top NBA prospects a platform to showcase their skill set for NBA GM’s and scouts through a variety of drills and measurements. Let’s take a look at how Shabazz Napier’s numbers fared against other top point guards prospects.

Top Point Guards: Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Dante Exum (Australia), Elfrid Payton (Louisiana-Lafayette), Shabazz Napier (UCONN), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)

Drills

On the advice of his agent, Napier opted to skip the basketball drills portion of the combine. In fact, none of the top point guard prospects participated in the drills. While some questioned the decision of Payton who received little national exposure at Louisiana-Lafayette, Napier’s season was well chronicled and his decision received no negative backlash. Other top players who did not participate included Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Michigan State’s Gary Harris.

Measurements

Below I have compiled a comparison of Napier’s top competitors at the combine, as well as Kemba Walker’s measurements from the 2011 NBA Draft Combine. While Napier lacks the height and wingspan coveted by scouts, his 37.5 inch max vertical answered questions of explosiveness and was arguably the most surprising/impressive measurement of the day. If you look closely, Napier’s measurements are nearly identical to those of Walker, the 9th overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Player Height (shoes) Weight Wingspan Max Vertical
Napier 6-1 175 6-3 1/4 37.5
Ennis 6-2 1/2 182 6-7 1/4 36
Exum 6-6 196 6-9 1/2 34.5
Payton 6-3 3/4 185 6-8 35.5
Smart 6-3 1/4 227 6-9 1/4 36
Walker (2011) 6-1 184 6-3 1/2 39.5

In the 3/4 court sprint Napier finished second among point guards (3.2 seconds), barely edged out by Exum (3.19).

Stock: Up or Down?

Up. Napier’s small stature has been noted by scouts in the past so his measurements came with little shock. As I mentioned above, the real shocker was Napier’s vertical, an astounding 37.5 inches- the same as former Husky flyer Ben Gordon*. In years past, Napier was knocked for his immaturity and scouts worried about his ability to lead an NBA team. This past season put those doubts at ease after Napier not only elevated his play, but also the play of his supporting cast en route to his second National Championship. Napier is the most NBA-ready point guard prospect in the draft, the type of player who could immediately contribute minutes as a back up. Yes, Napier will be competing against NBA sized guards every night, but, if you take a look at his track record -most recently the Harrison twins/James Young of Kentucky- Napier is a competitor and competitors are not discouraged by a couple of inches. As Napier said of himself, “Certain guys know how to win, certain guys understand what to do at certain times of the game and that’s kind of rare.” In a league where success is defined by championships, Shabazz Napier is a proven winner.

*This number is even more astounding considering Napier did not complete a dunk in his four years at UCONN.

Draft Projections

According to scouts present at the combine, Napier’s performance solidified a first round selection. Here are some possible destinations that stand out:

  • 17th pick, Boston Celtics: Hometown kid on the hometown team is always an inspiring story line.
  • 26th pick, Miami Heat: LeBron tweeted: “No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.” Starting point guard Mario Chalmers is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, if Napier were still available you know who LeBron wants…
  • 28th pick, Los Angeles Clippers: Current backup Darren Collison has a player option for next season. Like Collison, Napier is a pesky defender who would benefit under the tutelage of Chris Paul while he develops.