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.
The release of NBA 2K17, the latest edition of the popular 2K video-game series, is less than a month away. Players are starting to get their likenesses in the game, as well as their player ratings, and tweet them out. Magic forward Evan Fournier wasn’t too happy with the way his came out.
Fournier’s countryman Rudy Gobert got in on the fun, too, changing his Twitter avatar to Fournier’s screenshot and encouraging others to do the same. He even created a hashtag for it.
At least they’re having fun with it.
On Friday, the Jazz traded German center Tibor Pleiss to the Sixers along with two second-round picks for Kendall Marshall. The big draw of the trade for Philly was the picks, and Pleiss is not expected to stay with the Sixers, according to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato.
Pleiss had a forgettable season with Utah, and the Sixers have a glut of bigs including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. It would have been virtually impossible for Pleiss to crack the rotation, and it’s unlikely another team picks up his contract, which has $3 million guaranteed this season.
As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”
Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.
For two decades, Kobe Bryant saw everyone and everything as an obstacle to overcome: The Pacers, Sixers, Nets, Magic, Celtics, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, Smush Parker, a torn Achilles. It didn’t matter. Kobe’s work ethic and drive had him rising above it all.
His focus hasn’t changed now. Kobe was on the Jim Rome show, and the topic of the new-look Warriors with Kevin Durant came up, along with the “woe is me” attitude of some players (and plenty of owners and GMs).
“I would have thought less about myself if I looked at that move and said, ‘That’s unfair,'” he said. “If you’re a real competitor, you look at that and say, ‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go. I don’t care how many players you have over there; we’re still going to take you down.'”
Easier said than done to make that happen, but that attitude is the only one to have if you think you have a chance. You can be sure LeBron James is thinking that way and telling his Cavaliers teammates the same.
We’re going to miss Kobe.