Thunder Draft Preview (Shabazz Napier)

By Randy Renner

The NBA Draft is Thursday night and if the past is any indication it will have a big impact on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Nine of the 12 players the Thunder currently have under contract were drafted by the organization.

This year the Thunder have both the 21st and 29th selections in the first round and no picks in the second.

Each day leading up to the draft we’re profiling players who could be available when the Thunder choose. Keep in mind the Thunder could very easily make a move that would send one or both of those picks elsewhere.

The Thunder continue to be mentioned as working with the New York Knicks to send one of those picks to New York (which currently doesn’t have a pick in this draft) in exchange for point guard Iman Shumpert. Other deals are also being discussed.

So with all that in mind we continue with our draft preview and remember our crew will be at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center Thursday night to provide complete coverage of Thunder Draft Night 2014.

SHABAZZ NAPIER (Point Guard, Connecticutt)

Boy the Thunder love em some UConn guys don’t they? They have a history of bringing them into the organization one way or the other and whaddya know? This year another UConn guy just might be there when the Thunder pick at #21. Point guard Shabazz Napier is being tabbed in most mock drafts to be a late first round guy and of course the Thunder will likely have a need for a point guard either to replace Derek Fisher as the third team PG or to replace Reggie Jackson as the backup if Jackson moves over to shooting guard.

One of the concerns about Napier is his size, 6-1 in shoes, about an inch shorter than most thought he was and he weighed in at 175 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine. That’s 10 pounds lighter than he was the year before at the LeBron James camp.

Still Napier had an outstanding season helping guide the Huskies to another National Title. He averaged 35.1 minutes and scored 18.0 points on 42.9 percent shooting overall and he hit a solid 40.9 percent of his threes. He was also money at the free throw line where he converted 87 percent of his attempts.

He also averaged 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals a game while turning it over 2.9 times.

Napier at times was a one-man show for UConn, especially during the tournament. That’s been a bit of a knock on him since he’s been in college. He takes too many shots himself rather than acting as a distributor, although that did improve last season.

Napier averaged 0.99 points per half court possession in the regular season according to statistics from Synergy Sports Technologies. 54.2 percent of those possessions involved pick-and-roll and isolation plays.

73 percent of his shots in the half court were jumpers and he made 41.2 percent of those. Both sets of numbers are tops for the point guards available in the draft. Off those jumpers he averaged 0.986 points per possession which also leads the PG group.

In the NCAA Tournament his percentage of P&R and iso plays rose to 57.2 and his shot making on jumpers jumped up to 46.3 percent.

Last season, Napier seemed to play his best when the pressure was greatest and everything was on the line.

Though his numbers on jumpers are pretty stout, his numbers when it comes to finishing at the rim aren’t. He made a very weak 46.6 percent of his shots at rim, the second lowest percentage of any point guard.

Napier’s wingspan is just shy of 6-4 so that helps when he’s playing defense. His overall quickness isn’t as good as some and his ball handling, especially in traffic has a bit to be desired as those turnovers indicate.

Still after being under the tutelage of for Thunder point guard Kevin Ollie and having played one season with current Thunder shooting guard Jeremy Lamb, there is perhaps more of a familiarity and confidence with Napier than the Thunder might have with some others.

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