My recollections of collegiate basketball with a clear view of talent probably goes back to the mid 90’s. It’s not a long track record of athletics but enough to evaluate talent from the booms and busts seen over the years.

The NBA is in an obvious transition of evaluating talent. The one and done rule in college basketball has left the NBA community of scouts and gm’s an excuse to miss on first round picks. Evaluating talent is predicated on what a player’s future can be, instead of what they’ve done. Often times a senior in the NBA draft is not considered worthy of a high first round pick.

Busts are bound to happen but teams need to draw the line if they’re in search for a point guard. Shabazz Napier should not be a bottom tier grade or late first round pick.

Maturity has to be a key grade for NBA scouts. Napier has handled his own in one of the toughest college basketball conferences in the last four years (Big East than AAC for his senior year). In all phases of his game he has improved from a freshman to senior. Exactly what Kemba Walker did as a UConn Huskie, Napier was able to do.

Yet, before the tournament and the Huskies run, Napier probably wasn’t even considered as a second round pick. The senior tab was labeled on him.

In all due honesty I can’t see how Marcus Smart or Tyler Ennis are rated higher than Napier. Measurables alone probably could justify their higher ratings. But skillset on the court, Napier has the clear advantage. He never folded in games the way Ennis and Smart did. The only team that truly did befuddle Napier was Louisville.

Often times Napier could will the Huskies himself with timely barrages of three pointers, and increased intensity defensively. Ennis just was not capable of making enough perimeter shots to carry Syracuse through offensive droughts. In fact, if Napier was on the Syracuse team of last year, they would have never went on the slide they did. The large factor in Syracuse’s slump was missed shots all across the board, when Boeheim enlisted Ennis to shoot more.

Marcus Smart likely had more talent around him then both Ennis and Napier at Oklahoma State. The problem with Oklahoma State’s struggles was teams realized how to defend Smart. You could say that Smart was more of a Russ Westbrook type of point guard. He tried to shoot the ball too much and did not involve his teammates properly.

If an NBA GM wants to have that type of talent as their first round pick, so be it. Winning is what a team should want, and Napier has shown that with two national titles in four years.

He also did the unthinkable as UConn faced sanctions and a postseason ban. The ability to transfer freely is another area of college basketball that is hindering the game. Teams are having more turn around than an NBA team, as players are now transferring due to playing time or new recruits coming in. The goal of being an upper classmen starter has gone out the window.

Napier stayed the course with UConn, in a move that should also brighten his draft stock. Many point guards in his position would have transferred to a top ten or fifteen team to improve his stock and chance for a national title.

I believe teams will move Napier up as the draft gets closer and Ennis down. Smart will likely still go top ten and higher than Napier but it doesn’t mean he will be the better prospect. Look for Napier to be a top fifteen pick and one of the surprise moves up the draft board.

It may seem surprising but this is from the same point guard that won a national title at 40-1 odds in 2011 and 100-1 in 2014.


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