LeBron James, on the brink of free agency after a five-game Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs, probably influenced the Miami Heat’s decision in the 2014 NBA Draft.
The Miami Heat had the no. 26 spot in the draft. Two spots before them, the Charlotte Hornets had drafted UConn point guard Shabazz Napier. Right after the Hornets selected Napier, James sent out the following tweet:
Minutes later, a trade was announced between the Heat and Hornets:
Confirmed Heat will acquire Shabazz Napier from Hornets and give Hornets the 26th and 55th picks.
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) June 27, 2014
Of course, James became a free agent and went back to Cleveland, despite the Heat’s best efforts to please him by trading for a rookie he liked.
However, James’ scouting acumen seems to be strong so far. Through six games in the preseason, Napier has looked solid coming off the bench for the Heat. Saturday night, Napier scored 25 points on 6-13 shooting to go with 4 assists and 2 steals in the Heat’s win over the Spurs. Prior to that, he’d averaged 14 points on 42% shooting with 2 rebounds and 4 assists in the previous three games.
Napier hasn’t been hyper-efficient with his shot so far (to be expected), but he’s shown an elite ability to get to the free throw line. In the preseason, he’s averaging 7.5 attempts per game and hitting them at an 86% clip, which would make him one of the best in the NBA at getting to line.
Chris Bosh told Miami Herald’s Joseph Goodman that Napier may be thriving because he spent four years in college and is now ready for the NBA game. Through six preseason games, Napier is a +18 on the court, meaning the Heat have been outscoring opponents when he plays.
The Heat will obviously struggle on offence without James. Previously, James acted as their playmaker, which freed up their guards to shoot spot-up jumpers. If Napier can continue to score and make plays as the season emerges, the Heat’s post-LeBron era may be a little less painful.
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