Shabazz Napier just led Connecticut to the NCAA championship, winning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Recipients of the award typically rise in the draft, usually to the detriment of their NBA team, but will the effect lift a fringe first-round pick like Napier all the way into the lottery?
If LeBron James were a general manager, yes.
LeBron is making the same mistake many general managers have: getting caught up in the excitement of March Madness. Napier has had a tremendous run, but these last six games shouldn’t supersede his entire body of work.
I rate Dante Exum, Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis clearly ahead of Napier as NBA prospects. I can’t guarantee Exum, Smart and Ennis would go 3-for-3 in having better NBA careers than Napier, but I’d chance a pick on each of them before Napier without a doubt.
After that, there’s no point guard clearly more valuable than Napier.
Zach LaVine, a very raw 6-foot-5 prospect who left UCLA after his freshman year, will make an interesting comparison. Napier, a 6-foot senior, is much steadier, but he presents lower upside.
There will be at least one team drafting late in the first round that is focused on winning now and could use depth at point guard. That team could make a good landing spot for Napier, and if that happens, I bet it would make LeBron very happy.