Just a little over a year ago, Shabazz Napier was helping UConn win a national college basketball title. Not too long after, he declared for the 2014 NBA Draft and was chosen by team president Pat Riley, in a move that was rumored to be part of the plight to lure LeBron James back to the Miami Heat. That didn’t work, and another year late, Napier is finding himself in a new city.
Per report, the Heat have unloaded Napier, sending him to the Orlando Magic in exchange for a protected future second round draft pick. It’s a clear drop in value for a point guard that seemed to fail as a rookie, while arguably never really finding his place in Miami. Sitting behind locked-in starter Elfrid Payton, it’s arguable if he’ll ever truly get the chance to do that now that he’s a member of the Orlando Magic.
This is a failure for Miami, who spent a first round draft pick on the former UConn star, and only got a second rounder in return for their mistake. Getting rid of Napier may be the best move in the long run, however, as there is a very clear log jam at the point in South Beach. Goran Dragic is the unquestioned starter, while Mario Chalmers (also rumored to be on the trade block) and Tyler Johnson are slated to fight for backup minutes. Napier never really had a place in Miami, and the team simply realized it with this decision.
While the move may be a downer at first glance, Napier at least gets a chance at starting over in Orlando, where he does appear to have a solid chance to fight for backup point guard minutes behind the aforementioned Payton. That being said, Napier seemed to improve this off-season, when he took a positive step forward in summer league play.
For Orlando, this is a win-win. If Napier isn’t a top shelf talent, he can settle in as a solid backup. If he out-performs expectations, he could force his way onto the court and possibly over shadow a defensively challenged Payton that also tends to struggle with his jumper. No one in Orlando wants Elfrid Peyton to regress or get beat out for a job (and that’s not about to happen), but the depth and competition is something they sorely needed behind him. It’s a solid move for a Magic team that is continuing to build with youth and hopes to squeak into the NBA playoffs next season. Napier doesn’t guarantee they will, but if he can give them a spark off the bench behind Payton, he’ll surely be doing his part.