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Free Agent Profile: Shabazz Napier

With free agency coming, let's dive into potential targets at each position, starting with PG Shabazz Napier.

Sacramento is entering a new era of Kings basketball following the hire of Monte McNair as general manager. With free agency coming soon, we'll be profiling potential targets with film breakdowns. This piece focuses on point guard Shabazz Napier.

Player info: Shabazz Napier, 29, PG, six-year veteran, former Washington Wizards player, UFA

2019-20 stats: Napier played for Minnesota and Washington this year, so I'll include per-game stats from both teams because of sufficient sample sizes.

With Minnesota: 36 games, 23.8 mins, 9.6 points, 3.1 rebs, 5.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 40.3 FG%, 29.6 3P%

With Washington: 20 games, 24.4 mins, 11.6 points, 2.4 rebs, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 42.8 FG%, 35.8 3P%

Fit in Sacramento: Napier is one of the better point guard options in this relatively deficient class. Earlier this offseason, I wrote about why the Kings need a new backup behind De'Aaron Fox. Napier and Cory Joseph both logged 24.4 minutes per game with their teams this season, so if you're signing Napier, he'll compete for the primary backup spot. Napier can initiate an offense, and he can move efficiently off the ball for spot-up looks. On defense, he's not better than Joseph, but he's capable of holding his own. Let's dive into the film:

The bulk of Napier’s shot attempts either come from beyond the arc or near the rim, with the occasional mid-range pull-up jumper or floater. But the key for opposing defenses? Don’t let Napier attack the basket. He’s struggled at the rim for five of his six professional years, but this aspect of the game clicked for him in Minnesota and in Washington.

Napier converted on 65% of his attempts on shots less than four feet from the rim, placing him in the 82nd percentile of point guards. In Washington, he upped his percentage to 70, jumping into the 90th percentile (both numbers come from Cleaning the Glass). For a guard that’s listed at 6’1”, that’s an impressive ability to have in your arsenal.

Let’s look at it in use here. The Chicago Bulls loved to blitz opposing ball-handlers. They do that on this pick-and-roll, with Thomas Bryant slipping in between the defenders (the best way to beat it). Napier stays one step ahead of the defense and also splits the defenders, leaving Shaquille Harrison in an isolated position. Napier’s footwork gives him the reverse finish.

As clean as that play is, it’s also the Bulls. Let’s see what Napier does against much better defenders in Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert.

The screen from Bryant was coming, but Napier cuts back inside. Gobert doesn’t fully commit to protecting the driving lane because of a potential kick-out pass to Bryant (who shot 40% from three this season), so it’s Napier’s strength versus Conley’s.

Napier somehow extends his arms above Conley and drops it in.

The last aspect of Napier’s layup game I want to point out is that he wants to get downhill. If a defense didn’t get set quick enough, Napier would find a hole and attack it. That hole isn’t as obvious in this play. Napier creates that hole by showing Alex Caruso he’s going left, but quickly cutting back inside to catch Caruso off balance. Anthony Davis isn’t directly in front of Napier either, so Napier wiggles his way into a tough reverse finish over Davis.

Here’s another example: Napier shows Eric Bledsoe he’s going right, but slices back to his left, causing Giannis Antetokounmpo to slide in. Giannis is in a better position to disrupt the shot than Davis, but Napier still creates enough room for an open look. He just rushed it and missed it badly.

Most of Napier’s shot attempts this season came from deep, but his poor shooting in Minnesota anchored down his total numbers on the year. I mentioned his 3P% for each team earlier, but Napier really improved on non-corner threes when he arrived in Washington.

In Minnesota, Napier shot 31% on non-corner threes, slotting him into the 24th percentile. With the Wizards, that number increased to 40%, good for the 89th percentile (both stats from Cleaning the Glass).

This play sees Napier taking advantage of Buddy Hield going under the screen. Bryant isn’t positioning himself to pop after a screen; he’s coming inside the arc too much. Plus, Alex Len has him covered by dropping. Napier receives enough room to take the shot and drills it.

Bradley Beal penetrates after the screen, CJ McCollum over helps for a split second, and Beal spins around to find a trailing Napier who drills the shot with momentum.

Now onto turnovers: Napier gives the ball away a little more than you’d like. He’s been great at keeping turnovers low for much of his career, but this season is an outlier. He turned it over more than twice a game with Minnesota and Washington this season. In Washington, he turned it over 2.6 times a game. His career high before that was 1.6 a game, which came during his rookie year in Miami.

Watching most of his errors in Washington, they primarily involved poor ball placement. Occasionally there were poor decisions, but every player possesses that fault to some extent.

In this play, he tries to slice the ball to Moe Wagner, but doesn’t put enough bounce into it. The ball rolls below Wagner’s knee and Wagner ends up falling.

In this play, Napier tries to lead Bryant on a roll to the rim, but passes it a second too early. The placement is fine, but the timing needs to be accurate in order for the placement to matter.

Napier actually put up a career-high in steals (1.5 per game) with Washington. Prior to that, his averages hovered around one a game.

In this play, Kendrick Nunn gets the step towards the basket, but good anticipation from Napier sees him intercepting the pass for a steal. Napier also posted a steal percentage of 2.5 while in Washington, good for the 90th percentile, according to Cleaning the Glass.

In this one, Napier sticks in front of Joseph, who can’t get past him. Hield is coming for a dribble hand-off, but Napier picks Joseph’s pocket before the DHO can materialize.

Here’s the key aspect to Napier’s defense: teams can pick on his size for mismatches on PnR’s, DHO’s, etc., but ultimately, Napier won’t cost you games on the defensive end. He’s not elite, but you also don’t need to hide him when he’s on the court.

Final Verdict:

Napier is coming off a contract where he made $1.9 million this past season. Though the pandemic will surely alter the value of players, Napier could be a solid veteran signing for this team. Yogi Ferrell is a free agent, so Napier can take his spot on the roster (if Joseph is still on the team because Napier probably doesn't want to be a third-stringer). But if there’s a chance to sign Napier for a good price while drafting a PG in the second round for a two-way spot, the Kings get another playmaker and ball-handler to put next to Fox.

Napier doesn’t always require the ball and can be a threat off the ball alongside Fox or Bogi. Napier is one name to consider in this PG class.

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MaybeNextYear
1 month ago

BPA is an argument normally reserved for the draft, but I really feel like fit shouldn’t matter one bit this offseason. McNair should ask himself one question only: Can I sign this guy for positive value?

I say this because I care zero about anyone’s fit with the current roster. Winter is coming, and change is bound to happen. In that sense, free agency, like the draft, really shouldn’t take fit into account.

Can we get Napier at a contract where he’s an asset, albeit a minor one? Maybe. If this FA class has a few options at backup PG, someone will be available for a good value. It’s just up to McNair to find that someone.

Otis
1 month ago

One comment? Screw this, I’m going back to StR.

andy_sims
1 month ago
Reply to  Otis

Please tell the person that’s there that I said hi.

Adamsite
Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
1 month ago

Once again, great breakdown Sanjesh. Please keep these coming.

I think it is going to be really hard to project free agency this year. There are just so many unknowns. Money available? positions of need? trades? McNair?

I think we will know so much more once the draft is done. I highly doubt the Kings keep all 4 drafted players but it will be interesting to see who sticks around with a mostly full rotation of players. This draft does have some nice PG’s projected for the lower first round and second round. Shabazz might be a good presence on a team with a young drafted PG. Slot in Shabazz behind Fox and rookie as the third strigner to grow and learn and you may have something.

Shabazz will come cheaper than Joseph, which begs the issue, do the Kings look for free agent PG’s if they can’t move Joseph?

RobHessing
1 month ago

It took decades to get rid of Napear & now you want to bring him back?!?

TheGrantNapear
1 month ago
Reply to  RobHessing

You rang??

Kosta
1 month ago
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Thanks for your call.

(click)

RobHessing
1 month ago
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Hack Lives Matter.

BabalooMagoo
1 month ago
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

My eyes!!!!!!!!!!!

Kosta
1 month ago
Reply to  RobHessing

Vivek wants to put together a shaBazz band.
comment image

Last edited 1 month ago by Kosta
Klam
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
1 month ago
Reply to  Kosta

Stimulus Bill

RobHessing
1 month ago
Reply to  Klam

Ha-ha, Clinton dicks!
comment image?w968h681

NorCalKingsFan
1 month ago

Can’t say I’d be happy with a Napier signing, never really liked his game. I’d rather they look for alternatives.

RAP87
1 month ago

Not a fan of signing Napear as a backup or a 3rd stringer. Better invest that money elsewhere. Besides I doubt if they are able to get rid of Joseph and even if they don’t I would rather have Kyle Guy be the 3rd PG.

I would also assume IF we keep all 4 picks, one of them would probably be a PG (looking at a guy like Malachi Flynn ) which I would much prefer and would cost less than signing Napear.

Last edited 1 month ago by RAP87
BestHyperboleEver
1 month ago
Reply to  RAP87

Agreed. I’d much rather draft a Riller, Flynn, Dotson, Manning, Terry (if he somehow magically falls to 35), type than sign Napier.

Orrrrr, BRING SHANE LARKIN BACK TO THE USA!

AirmaxPG
1 month ago

What do you guys think of Markus Howard? Size is an issue, but for a later 2nd round pick I think you could be getting a Seth Curry or Yogi Ferrell type contributor.

BestHyperboleEver
1 month ago
Reply to  AirmaxPG

I don’t know. I feel like every season there’s an undersized scorer that is kinda interesting, but ultimately I just don’t think Howard will be able to score enough (or efficiently enough) in the NBA to make up for not being a good facilitator and being a complete sieve on defense. His decision-making is really questionable both in terms of shot-selection and passing.

Now I’m trying to remember the short guy a couple seasons ago from Oakland U that was just electric in college.

Found him! Kay Felder.

AirmaxPG
1 month ago

Might be nice at #53 to put him on a two-way in Stockton. See if that 3 pt shooting can translate. And his usage was pretty crazy at Marquette, maybe the decision-making gets cleaned up when he’s playing more within himself…

BestHyperboleEver
1 month ago
Reply to  AirmaxPG

There are a number of other guys I’d likely rather take at that slot, but sure. Personally, when drafting lottery tickets, I would tend to go for lottery tickets that that project to more versatile, useful NBA roles. So I’d much rather go for guys like Queen, Diane, N’Doye, Hinton, Tinkle, Marshall, etc. They just have more ways in which they could potentially be useful.

andy_sims
1 month ago
Reply to  AirmaxPG

I think we kind of screwed up Yogi. He got regular minutes in Dallas and was productive. He’s small, so there’s a defensive issue, but he would get inside a ballhandler’s jersey from time to time and really disrupt flow.

And we’ll never have a better call and response after a made basket.

AirmaxPG
1 month ago
Reply to  andy_sims

Yeah I kind of think of him more as an undersized shooting guard. I like his pairing with Bogi when Fox is getting a breather. And I kind of thought this year that CoJo’s defensive prowess was over-stated.

RORDOG
1 month ago

I’ve officially added Payton Pritchard to my fave list. I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to take his man off the dribble and get to the rim in the half court, but I don’t care. He just seems like the type of player who I like to watch. He’s got an extra gear in transition, he takes and makes 30 footers, and he’s a swaggy dribbler/passer. I would thoroughly enjoy watching him run the second unit offense (or starting in Stockton).

Updated RORDOG Fave List (2nd Rd/UDFA):

Paul Reed
Elijah Hughes
Payton Pritchard
Tres Tinkle
Trevelin Queen

(fun to watch makes up approximately 50% of my scoring when ranking players outside of the first round FYI)

BestHyperboleEver
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

Some good names in there too. Hard to beat Tres Tinkle and Trevelin Queen.

Pritchard is definitely fun to root for. In his archetype, I’d probably put him behind Terry, Flynn, and Riller. Along with Dotson and Mannion (just realized I called him Manning above), etc.

Last edited 1 month ago by BestHyperboleEver
eddie41
1 month ago

No point in signing him. Already got Fox, Bogi and Joseph. Can get a 4th guard in the draft, 1st or 2nd round. On that topic I want to know your thoughts about Grant Riller as a possible #12 pick. I’m not reaching into the projected 2nd rounders here. Most draft boards project him as a mid to late 1st rounder. He’s a 3-level scorer with nba athleticism, a great first step, a scorer’s mentality, the ability to score at the rim. He could play on or off the ball. Definitely has game.

BestHyperboleEver
1 month ago
Reply to  eddie41

Riller tends to be projected somewhere between the end of the 1st to the mid-2nd. Considering the Kings picks, I think he’s a good pick at 35 and a GREAT pick at 43.

On a sidenote, if they can move Joseph without giving up assets to do it, I’m all for it. So a PG2 (Not Paul George, but 2nd string PG) could back an available role.

Last edited 1 month ago by BestHyperboleEver
eddie41
1 month ago

I think it depends on how one views this year’s draft class. I think most of the 10 through 25, tier two guys are there because they’ve been on the radar longer, been playing a lot of aau, but lacking enough game to be considered a top 10, tier one guy. They tend to be raw players who want to skip the development of skills, skip the challenge of proving oneself at the college level, and jump straight to the nba while they are a projected 1st rounder rather than join a more talented 2021 class and risk another year of data which proves their flaws are real. I think tier two should be about 30 players deep (#10 through 40). I expect the nba to be the best league in the world and therefore expect a #12 pick to have a lot of game.

BestHyperboleEver
1 month ago
Reply to  eddie41

I don’t disagree with any of that. But the Kings and all front offices should be doing a ton of leg work not just to find their guys, but also to get a feel for where they can reasonably expect those guys to be drafted so they can maximize the value of their picks. If they LOVE Riller, and it looks like they can safely draft him in the early 20s, then they should be looking at and talking to teams in that range to see if they can either pick up additional assets to trade down to that spot or use other assets to move up to it. In general, LOVING a guy that you can draft later puts the team in a really good position.

Last edited 1 month ago by BestHyperboleEver
eddie41
1 month ago

I gotcha. That’s why I think the Celtics picks look really good. But that trading scenario depends on other teams wanting to make the deal, which may or may not happen, so I’m assuming the Kings stay at 12, 35, and 43. So if Jason Thompson is projected to go between 10 through 15 (and some mock drafts even have him going in the top 10) because after one year at Kentucky, he was a beast on the boards, hustled every play, ran the floor like a deer and has the size to play center, and is an incredible athlete, and has decent shooting form which projects him to expand his range to the three point line someday, I’d prefer Riller because he’s got game.

BestHyperboleEver
1 month ago
Reply to  eddie41

I agree with what I think is the gist of this post. That present skills and production should be valued more in relation to projected skills. It’s why I liked Jaren Jackson over Bagley. I tend to look at what a player will be if they don’t significantly develop skills not already present. What is Bagley if he doesn’t develop a reliable 3 point shot or become a good defender? What is JJJ if he doesn’t develop his playmaking and rebounding? In those cases, JJJ is JUST a floor-stretching rim protector and Bagley is JUST a rim runner, closeout attacker and rebounder. Since THAT version of JJJ is more valuable than that version of Bagley.

The short version, I think present ability in often underrated and potential is often overrated.

andy_sims
1 month ago
Reply to  eddie41

Riller is fine, but what we need around here is someone who’s the Rillist.

wilbur10
1 month ago
Reply to  eddie41

People would freak, but I wouldn’t be mad if we took Riller at 12. I think he’s that good. I don’t really understand why him and Flynn are rated as low as they are. I personally think we should try and prioritize getting another guard that can create consistently. Riller and Flynn both fit that bill. Kira Lewis is probably my favorite pick at 12 though.

eddie41
1 month ago
Reply to  wilbur10

you might be right to rank Kira Lewis higher. At the college level I’ll take Flynn. At the nba level, it’s hard for me to predict. Kira is really fast and can score. No-one would freak if he gets picked in the 10-15 range.

andy_sims
1 month ago

I like Napier (not Napear), so I guess the question is does his offensive game make up for his defensive game not being as good as CoJo’s?

Seems like Napier would make a good backup for Fox, and would be inclined to push the pace, which is all that Sacramento will have going for it this year.

I am AMBIVALENT.

KingME
1 month ago

Victor Olidipo might be available…and y’all talking about Shabez Napier 🤦‍♂️ KANGZ

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