Should the Kings have drafted Luka Doncic?

NBA history features a few prominent stories of No. 3 draft picks who made teams that owned the No. 2 pick wish they had a do-over.

Of course there’s Michael Jordan, who went third in the 1984 draft right after the Portland Trail Blazers took Sam Bowie second.

Penny Hardaway was the No. 3 pick in 1993 after the Philadelphia 76ers chose Shawn Bradley second.

Carmelo Anthony went third in 2003 after the Detroit Pistons took a chance on Darko Milicic with the No. 2 pick.

James Harden was the No. 3 choice in 2009 following the Memphis Grizzlies’ selection of Hasheem Thabeet.

Noticing a theme? In a lot of instances where the third pick out-shined the second pick, the No. 3 choice was a dynamic and creative perimeter player that was passed over for a big man whose size was just as or more appealing than his skills.

In the 2018 draft, the Sacramento Kings used the No. 2 pick on Marvin Bagley III, a 6-foot-11 power forward who was dominant (21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds per game) in his freshman season at Duke University.

In the early stages of his pro career, Bagley has shown flashes of greatness. The 19-year-old has been sidelined for the last week with a knee injury, but all signs are showing he could very well develop into a star for the Kings.

But there’s another 19-year-old out there who could eventually haunt the Kings in the foreseeable future, as he has recently become the runaway favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year and looks like a lock to be a bona fide superstar.

That would be Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks’ guard/wing who was the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft — right after the Kings chose Bagley second.

Doncic is averaging 18.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists through 30 games and is clearly in line to be the face of the Dallas franchise whenever 40-year-old Dirk Nowitzki decides to retire.

Doncic is a 6-foot-7 playmaker and shooter who grew up in Slovenia and played pro ball in Spain before coming to the NBA.

His early-season highlight reel includes a 26-point effort in his second NBA game (a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves), a 31-point showing against the San Antonio Spurs, 24 points in a win over the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, 23 points and 12 assists against the Denver Nuggets, and a 32-point game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

But the signature performance of Doncic’s rookie year so far came on Dec. 8 when he scored 11 straight points in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback victory over the Houston Rockets.

Marvin Bagley, meanwhile, has been solid for the Kings. He’s averaging 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game even though he’s still coming off the bench and being brought along slowly by Sacramento coach Dave Joerger.

Bagley put up 20 points and 17 boards in a one-point loss to the Warriors. He posted 15-and-13 with three blocks in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had 20-9-5 against the Nuggets. He tallied 19 points, eight rebounds and three steals against the New Orleans Pelicans, going head-to-head at times with their superstar forward Anthony Davis and holding his own.

But Bagley has not made the impact or captured the public’s attention like Doncic. Bagley has been good, but Doncic has been great.

Which brings us back to the 2018 NBA Draft, and which makes people start to ask: Should the Kings have taken Doncic instead of Bagley? (Should the Phoenix Suns, who had the No. 1 overall pick and used it on 7-foot-1 center DeAndre Ayton, have taken Doncic?)

At the time, the Bagley pick made perfect sense for Sacramento.

The Kings appeared to have their backcourt of the future in place with youngsters De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, plus a couple of solid young guards coming off the bench in Bogdan Bogdanovic and Frank Mason III. Nobody would have objected to Sacramento taking a small forward, though, which Doncic can play. But the team had an obvious need for another big.

Plus, there was plenty of talk in basketball circles that Doncic and/or his people didn’t want to go to the Kings, whereas Bagley said prior to the draft that he was excited at the possibility of starting his NBA career in Sacramento.

For what it’s worth, Kings general manager Vlade Divac said the decision to pick Bagley over Doncic was an easy one.

There’s no need to say Divac was right or wrong at this point in the season.

It would still be too early at the end of this season to make that call. There have been plenty of players who had great rookie seasons, only to either peak there or decline. (Michael Carter-Williams, Mike Miller, Larry Johnson, to name a few.) Just as there have been plenty of players who became all-time greats after a less-than-amazing rookie season. (Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, to name a few.)

Bagley could still turn out to be a superstar that the Kings would have zero regrets of drafting. Doncic could still turn out to be lower on the NBA totem pole than Bagley when this draft class is ultimately graded for prosperity.

But with the NBA’s unofficial mainstream reveal approaching on Christmas Day, the early returns say that Doncic is the best player from this group of rookies, and teams that had a chance to get him and didn’t — a.k.a. the Kings — will come to regret that decision.

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Buddy Hield is having a breakout season

The Sacramento Kings have started the 2018-19 season better than anyone outside of California’s capital city would have predicted, and third-year shooting guard Buddy Hield deserves a significant share of the credit.

Hield is tied for the team lead in scoring, averaging 18.7 points per game while shooting 47.4 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range and 82.9 percent at the free-throw line. His 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game are also career-high numbers.

The Kings are 8-6 following Monday’s win over the Spurs. The franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 12 years is currently in eighth place in the Western Conference.

It’s unlikely Sacramento hangs onto that playoff seed — slow-starting yet star-studded teams like the Rockets, Jazz, Lakers, Pelicans and Timberwolves are all behind the Kings in the standings — but they have noticeably improved from last season, when they finished 27-55.

The Kings are trending in the right direction, with Hield enjoying a breakout season as one of the important pieces of their rebuilding project.

Two years ago, when Hield was crowned college basketball’s national player of the year by a majority of outlets, there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t go on to become a star in the NBA.

Hield averaged 25.0 points per game as a senior at Oklahoma, leading the nation in three-pointers and leading the Sooners to the Final Four. He was taken No. 6 in the 2016 draft by the Pelicans.

However, Buddy didn’t exactly take the league by storm. Midway through his rookie season, he was traded to the Kings as part of the DeMarcus Cousins deal.

The history of NBA stars who were discarded during during their first year by their first team is short, but it has happened before. Chauncey Billups and Joe Johnson come to mind — both of them were traded by the Celtics as rookies and bounced around for a few years before earning All-Star status.

Hield could follow a similar path. Early into his third season, he is producing at a consistently high level. And more important than his stats, Hield appears to be carrying himself differently. He is playing like he believes he is the best player on the court.

Hield may not be “The Man” in Sacramento (yet). That title could go to point guard De’Aaron Fox, who is tied with Hield for the team lead in scoring at 18.7 points per game. Perhaps it’s being groomed for rookie forward Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in the most recent draft. The Kings have one thing in common with the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors in that they don’t have a clearly defined No. 1 guy.

But Hield is at least carrying himself like he wants to be the Kings’ top guy. He is calling for the ball in the fourth quarter. He wants it at the end of quarters so he can take the last shot, like many stars do.

Another thing that stars do is respond strongly to a subpar performance.

On Oct. 23, Hield had by far his worst game of the season, scoring just five points in a loss to the Nuggets. He bounced back by scoring 20-plus points in six of his next seven games, including a season-high 27-point effort in a win over the Hawks.

The jump shot — and the range that comes with it — will always be the bread-and-butter of Hield’s game. But this season he is becoming more of a well-rounded scorer instead of a pure shooter. He’s also showing improvement as a ball-handler and passer. His Defensive Rating is even a career-best 100.9 this season, which ranks third-best on the Kings.

Hield is leading the Kings in shot attempts and ranks second in minutes played. Head coach Dave Joerger is keeping Hield on the court when it matters, and Hield wants the ball when it matters. And he’s producing when he gets it.

All-Star nods and having his name at the top of the marquee may still be a few years away for Hield, but this season it looks like he has put himself on a realistic road to what seemed like a certainty when he entered the league.

Where does De’Aaron Fox rank among NBA point guards?

Most of the NBA’s best point guards did not have a significant spike in production from their rookie season to their second year in the league.

Go down the list — Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, etc. — and you’ll notice the typical progression involves a slight uptick in the major bulk stats of points and assists, and maybe a significant jump in shooting percentages. That could be attributed to the game slowing down for a second-year player who isn’t pressing as much as a rookie.

In that sense, what De’Aaron Fox is doing for the Sacramento Kings in the very early stages of the 2018-19 season is an exception to the rule — presuming that he is in fact on the road to becoming one of the NBA’s top players at his position.

As a rookie last season, Fox — the No. 5 pick in the draft out of Kentucky — averaged 11.6 points, 4.4 assists and 1.0 steals per game, shooting 41.2 percent from the field.

Six games into Year 2, Fox is putting up 17.7 points, 7.0 assists and 1.3 steals while hitting 47.4 percent of his shots from the field.

If Fox keeps this up, the leap he will make between his first and second pro seasons would mimic that of Kemba Walker, the Charlotte Hornets’ two-time All-Star point guard. Walker averaged 12.1 points and 4.4 assists on 36 percent shooting as a rookie for a Charlotte team that posted a historically awful 7-59 record during a 66-game lockout-shortened season. In his second year, Walker upped his numbers to 17.7 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 42 percent. Charlotte was a little bit better than before, finishing 21-61.

The seemingly overnight improvement for Fox could be chalked up primarily to confidence. Not from Fox, who is utterly confident in his abilities, but rather from Kings coach Dave Joerger.

Going into his rookie year, Fox was described by Joerger as possibly having the highest basketball IQ on the team. However, Joerger tends to take it slow with his rookies. Fox began the season coming off the bench behind veteran point guard George Hill.

Fox eventually earned the full-time starting job (and Hill was eventually traded), but the Kings were a team that appeared unsure of its identity — only half-committed to its youth movement while still leaning on veterans like Zach Randolph and Vince Carter who are near the end of their respective careers.

This season, the Kings are all-in on the kids: Fox (20 years old), rookie forward Marvin Bagley III (19), shooting guard Buddy Hield (24), center Willie Cauley-Stein (25), forward Harry Giles (20), wing Justin Jackson (23), center Skal Labissiere (22) and guard Frank Mason III (24).

Carter was allowed to walk in free agency over the summer, and Randolph — the team’s leading scorer last season — has not played a single minute through the Kings’ first six games.

Fox has benefited from being handed the keys to the Kings from Day 1 of training camp as the starting point guard. He’s playing over 32 minutes per game in October, compared to last December when he played just 22 minutes per game.

Joerger gave Fox another ringing endorsement recently at the Kings’ Media Day:

“The best thing you can do for him is play fast and give him as much room as possible,” Joerger said Monday at the Kings practice facility during media day. “To play small and try to do that is best for De’Aaron. He’s our franchise guy. I think he is and I think everybody kind of agrees on that.”

On Friday, Fox and the Kings faced the Washington Wizards, meaning Fox went head-to-head with All-Star point guard John Wall.

Because they both played college ball at Kentucky, and because they’re two of the fastest men in the sport, Fox has often been compared to Wall. Which makes their 1-on-1 meetings something of a litmus test for Fox’s progress.

Fox faced Wall and the Wizards twice last season, and two times he was badly outplayed while the Kings lost convincingly.

On Friday, Fox led the Sacramento to a 116-112 victory while putting up 18 points and nine assists, shooting 7-for-14 (50 percent) from the field. Wall had 26 points, eight assists and three steals while making 9-for-20 (45 percent) from the field.

The good version of Fox and the still-learning version of Fox were both on display. The good was the baseline crossover and dunk he threw down in the first half, and when he scored or assisted on 15 straight points for the Kings in the fourth quarter. The bad was later in the fourth quarter when he took two ill-advised, rushed shots in the same possession that he missed badly when Sacramento was trying to protect a three-point lead.

Fox’s leadership also factored into the win over the Wizards. He was the one encouraging Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica to keep shooting even after he missed his first few attempts. Bjelica wound up being huge for the Kings with 24 points and six threes.

Between his individual stats, some standout performances against other good point guards, and the fact that the Kings are doing better than expected at 3-3 heading into a four-game Eastern Conference road trip that starts Monday in Miami, it’s worth asking …

Where does Fox rank among the NBA’s starting point guards right now?

I have him in the top 15:

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. Chris Paul
  4. Kyrie Irving
  5. Kemba Walker
  6. Damian Lillard
  7. Ben Simmons
  8. John Wall
  9. Kyle Lowry
  10. Rajon Rondo
  11. Jrue Holiday
  12. De’Aaron Fox
  13. Mike Conley
  14. Reggie Jackson
  15. Goran Dragic

When the Kings beat Westbrook and the Thunder, Fox put up 22 points and 10 assists while shooting 58 percent from the field. Westbrook finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, shooting 56 percent.

In Sacramento’s win over Memphis, Fox posted 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists on 43 percent shooting, while Conley went for 27 points, six rebounds and five assists on 45 percent shooting.

In the Kings’ loss to the Pelicans, Fox put up 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists on 50 percent shooting against Holiday, who had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists on 45 percent shooting.

Numbers aren’t everything, of course.

Perhaps the most impressive thing Fox has done this season is take the reigns of a very young team and help make them competitive. The Kings still need a lot of work defensively, but offensively they’ve been good enough to hang in there with or beat some more talented, experienced teams.

More specifically, Fox has improved in his ability to run the Kings’ offense and play under control.

He has always been fast and a great athlete, but sometimes Fox plays too fast for his own good. Now he’s learning how to play point guard in the NBA. Ideally, what you’d want Fox to do is blend that Allen Iverson speed with an Andre Miller approach to the game.

If he does that, Fox will continue moving up the ranks as one of the league’s best at what he does.

It’s time for the Kings to unleash Marvin Bagley III

Marvin Bagley III

In his third season as head coach of the Sacramento Kings, Dave Joerger has shown one consistent preference when it comes to rookies: He likes to bring them along slowly.

The Kings began Joerger’s first season with three rookies on the roster who were first-round draft picks, and added a fourth with a midseason trade for Buddy Hield. The rookies started a combined 30 games, and 18 of those were by Hield, who didn’t join the team until February. Skal Labissiere started 12 games, while Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis never started.

In Year 2, the Kings took point guard De’Aaron Fox with the No. 5 pick. Although he was often their top scorer, he was still coming off the bench until about one month into the season while Joerger stuck with veteran George Hill. From the looks of things, it took an embarrassing 46-point loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks to make Joerger finally pull the trigger on making Fox — who the coach had already said may have the highest basketball IQ on the team — a full-time starter.

That patient approach wouldn’t be a big deal in a place like San Antonio with a coach like Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are a perennially successful franchise that doesn’t often get lottery picks and doesn’t need 19-year-old rookies to make an impact.

The Kings, however, are constantly in search of that next savior and face of the franchise. Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs in 12 years. They seem to have a permanent reservation at the NBA Draft Lottery table. So it can be understandably frustrating and confusing for Kings fans when their shiny new rookies aren’t being handed the keys like other top picks around the league.

The latest potential star for this team that is being is being brought along slowly is rookie forward Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft who is by all accounts viewed as a critical piece of the franchise’s foundation.

But one week into the season, Bagley is still coming off the bench, and it looks like Joerger is again taking the slow approach with a standout rookie.

Meanwhile, it has become clear that Bagley is legit and that it’s time for the Kings to unleash him on the rest of the league.

Bagley’s NBA debut was forgettable. He only played 12 minutes in a loss to the Utah Jazz. But even in that cameo, he showed some flashes of brilliance. In his second game, he put up 19 points, eight rebounds and three steals in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in which he was at times matched up with MVP candidate Anthony Davis and more than held his own.

Bagley posted 13 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes during Sacramento’s first victory of the season, last Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In Tuesday’s loss to the still-undefeated Denver Nuggets, Bagley looked like a star: 20 points, nine rebounds, three assists and five blocks while shooting 9-for-11 from the field. He played 32 minutes on the road in Denver’s notorious high-altitude and his motor never appeared to slow down. And again, he came off the bench.

Perhaps the impressive play Bagley made in the Nuggets game — and there were plenty — was on the defensive end. He was being posted up by Denver’s Trey Lyles, who spun into the lane, fooled Bagley on a pump fake and went up to shoot. But Bagley recovered so quickly that he was able to block Lyles’ shot on his second jump.

On another play, Bagley was being posted up by Denver center Nikola Jokic, who was voted the Western Conference Player of the Week and appears on his way to an All-Star Game berth. Jokic, who has about 15 pounds and a couple of inches on Bagley, went up strong right at the rim but Bagley blocked his shot.

Another time, Bagley blocked a shot by All-Star forward Paul Millsap, trailed the ensuing Sacramento fast break, then drove past Millsap to score between him and Jokic at the rim.

Although it’s a short four-game sample size, Bagley is showcasing a skill set that is similar to the likes of established stars Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid. He can score in the paint, from mid-range, and hit 3-pointers. He can handle the ball and run the floor. He can defend multiple positions and block shots.

Bagley (14.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 60% FG) should be starting for the Kings. It may not seem like a big deal, since he’s getting a lot of minutes, but that simple gesture isn’t just about putting the team in a better position to win. It is also a vote of confidence for the 19-year-old that he is one of the building blocks and faces of the franchise.

3 “Don’t Give Up On Me” players to watch next year

NBA Sleepers

We all have that player.

I was convinced that Jared Sullinger was going to be a superstar. The dude was a man among boys in college and I thought it would translate to the NBA. Plus, he had soft touch you rarely see in big men. Welp, I was wrong. Dead Wrong. As of now, Sully is playing in China AKA basketball’s version of The island of misfit toys.

Who else could be headed that way? Time will tell. As of now, I am here to tell you all about some players you should not give up on yet. We begin with a former lottery pick who plays for the Miami Heat.

 

Justise Winslow

It seems as even though his own team wants to move on from him…

Fortunately, Winslow survived the draft day trade rumors and is still playing ball in Miami. This is certainly good for the former Duke product, as playing alongside someone like Coach Spo can only help Winslow achieve his potential.

Why am I still so high on Winslow? Although he has failed to display them consistently, the lefty has all of the traits you want in a starting wing. Take his shooting ability, for example.

On paper, Winslow’s shooting stats don’t pop out at you. Take a deeper look, however. Justice took 54 percent of his triples from the corner last season, and nailed 40 percent of them. He has the potential to stretch defenses, which is covetable in today’s game.

Winlow can do more than simply bang corner threes, though. Miami can and has run some of its offense through Winslow. His passing vision is underrated, but I like Winslow more for his ability to score via the pick and roll. I lined up this YouTube video so all you have to do it click play, then watch Winslow consecutively weave his way into nice scoring opportunities off of screens.

Defensively, Winslow has some hidden tools as well. Sure, we know about his strong frame, quick feet, and solid wingspan. Yet, his timing as a shotblocker may prove worthy as coaches turn to super-small ball lineups. Again, I did the work so you don’t have to. Click play and watch until the end to see how Winslow can serve as a Jerami Grant/Draymond Green rim protector.

With his spacing, pick and roll potential, and defensive versatility, Miami should continue to be patient with Winslow. Other teams would be wise to poach him as well.

 

Willie Cauley-Stein

Before last season, people were ready to give up on WCS. The former Wildcat has loads of potential, but reports suggested that he may be obtainable. Check out what the plugged in Marc Stein had to say about Cauley-Stein during the 2016-17 season.

“Keep an eye on Kings big man Willie Cauley-Stein. Word is Sacramento is open to moving the second-year big man, who wants more of a role than he has under new Kings coach Dave Joerger’

Interesting, indeed. Of course, WCS stuck around and had a good year as a starter last season. Still, Sacramento is stacked with big men. They already have Harry Giles, Skal Labissiere, Deyonta Davis, and drafted Marvin Bagley III. If Giles and Skal take steps forward this year, Sacramento may choose to let WCS walk in free agency and opt to retain future cap space.

Yet, Cauley-Stein is certainly worth an investment. WCS is as nimble as they come for big men. He is a near 7-footer with a 7’3″ wingspan and runs like a wide receiver. Probably because he used to be one. The athletic tools are there for him to switch on screens and also defend the paint.

We catch a glimpse of this nimbleness in Cauley-Stein’s per-36 numbers. Now, there is a reason guys do not play 36 minutes, but this statistic can still be a useful projection tool. So, what do his numbers look like?

Per 36 Minutes Table
Season Age Tm G STL BLK PTS
2015-16 22 SAC 66 1.2 1.7 11.8
2016-17 23 SAC 75 1.3 1.1 15.5
2017-18 24 SAC 73 1.4 1.2 16.4
Career 214 1.3 1.3 14.8
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2018.

Glance at his steal and block numbers, also known as STOCK. Averaging over one steal per game and one block per game indicates that WCS has active enough hands and feet to switch onto guards. There is another number which stands out to me, however.

Cauley-Stein may be more than a gravity puller on pick and rolls. The guy may actually be a facilitator as well. When I saw his assists numbers from last year, I was encouraged to go back and watch some more film. After all, big men who get 2.4 or more assists per game deserve more film study.

To clarify, I do not expect Cauley-Stein to operate from the pick and roll the same way Al Horford and Blake Griffin do. Yet, WCS can make the right pass. He often finds himself with a tons of space, because opposing teams want him taking jumpers. What happens when WCS finds himself in these situations. Good stuff.

Consider this clip of him playing against the Warriors and their tough defense. WCS is actually be pressed really hard by Andre Iguodala. What does he do? Cauley-Stein actual does a little crossover, then fires a bullet pass to a cutting Bogdanovic for a floater. I know. I had to watch it a couple times too.

Fast forward to the 1:03 mark of that same clip. David West is giving WCS a lot of space, and for good reason. The Kings decide to run some off-ball stuff for Bogdanovic again. This time WCS makes a smart bounce pass to BB as he cuts in for a layup.

The Kings know that WCS only draws attention as a screener. Everyone dares him to shoot, so Sacramento has drawn up some off-ball stuff for other players to do when WCS has the ball near the free throw line. If they were smart, Sacramento would look to do more of this and even get Marvin Bagley involved in some big-to-big passing as well. Don’t give up on the guy just yet, I expect him to turn his career trajectory around during the 2018-19 season.

 

Shabazz Napier

I know. Here goes my UConn bias again. Despite having earned another contract, Napier hasn’t lived up to the hype of a former first-round pick. Yet, I would argue that Napier has 6th man written all over him. Think Dellavedova during the Cavs title run.

Why am I still high on Napier? Excellent question. Yes, I know he has bounced around to four teams in what will be five years. But, Napier has a skill set that matches what today’s head coaches are looking for. Plus, he experienced a minor breakout year in Portland. As the stats tell, last season was his best yet.

Per Game Table
Season Age Tm Pos G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT% TRB AST PTS
2014-15 23 MIA PG 51 19.8 1.7 4.5 .382 0.8 2.3 .364 .786 2.2 2.5 5.1
2015-16 24 ORL PG 55 10.9 1.2 3.7 .338 0.6 1.9 .327 .733 1.0 1.8 3.7
2016-17 25 POR PG 53 9.7 1.4 3.5 .399 0.6 1.7 .370 .776 1.2 1.3 4.1
2017-18 26 POR PG 74 20.7 3.0 7.2 .420 1.1 2.9 .376 .841 2.3 2.0 8.7
Career 233 15.7 1.9 4.9 .395 0.8 2.3 .363 .802 1.7 1.9 5.7
2 seasons POR 127 16.1 2.3 5.6 .415 0.9 2.4 .374 .824 1.8 1.7 6.8
1 season ORL 55 10.9 1.2 3.7 .338 0.6 1.9 .327 .733 1.0 1.8 3.7
1 season MIA 51 19.8 1.7 4.5 .382 0.8 2.3 .364 .786 2.2 2.5 5.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2018.

Even more impressive are his numbers as a starter. When filling in for Dame Lillard, Napier put up a stat line of 16, 4 and 4 while banging 38 percent of his triples. Not bad.

So why wasn’t Napier more successful in Portland? I will answer my own question with another question. If C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard were your two best players, would you try and squeeze in more minutes for Shabazz Napier? Me neither.

It may be hard for Napier to find minutes in Brooklyn as well, but I like his chances. The Nets have done a wonderful job with player development as well as targeting under-the-radar guys with untapped potential. If the Nets acquired Napier, they did so for a reason. He will play behind Russell and Dinwiddie, but Napier will wiggle his way into some playing time eventually.

What will he bring to this squad? Napier can facilitate, but is more of a scoring guard. He takes 41 percent of all his shots from three, and drains a good amount of them. Napier’s assist percentage is not too high for a distributor, but this is because he is often asked to lead the second units in scoring. Yet, he is a natural scorer who relies on his shiftiness and sneaky athleticism to get buckets.

Oh, and the shiftiness is real. Watch this eurostep and pass which leads to a three-ball.

In fact, I recommend watching the whole clip.

If Napier can find minutes next season, he can display his talent. Not only is he one of the most clutch players out there, he is also one of the hardest workers. Don’t bet against this man.

 

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