Shabazz Napier is making a mark on the Portland Trail Blazers in his second year with the team, morphing into one of their most dependable bench options after a quiet inaugural season. The three-guard lineup of Napier, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum has seen defenses get burned by any one of the guards while focusing on the other two.
This is Napier’s last season on his rookie deal, with free agency coming at the season’s end. For now, he’s significantly outplaying his contract, as Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report details using NBA Math’s total points added metric. Fromal’s measurement pegs Napier’s contract (about $2.36 million) No. 4 among all point guards:
Enjoy this while it lasts, because Shabazz Napier likely won't feature in a season's-end version of these rankings.
This Portland Trail Blazers point guard is on the final go-round of his rookie deal, and that's perfect timing. He's never shot nearly this well, so his contract-year exploits could earn him a bit more cash over the summer as teams seek out bench sparks at the 1. But are his numbers really sustainable?
Napier fares so well because he's knocking down 54.4 percent of his shots from the field, 65.0 percent of his three-point attempts and 72.2 percent of his tries from the stripe. Those are sensational percentages. But they're also earned by a player whose career slash line stood at 37.3/35.4/76.7 heading into his fourth season.
Rip City has surely enjoyed his exploits during the opening salvo of 2017-18, but it shouldn't be too quick to buy into the success.
Napier ranks above Delon Wright, and he’s below Spencer Dinwiddie, Kemba Walker and No. 1 contract Ben Simmons.
Obviously, 65.0 percent from three and 54.4 percent on field goals are probably unsustainable. Opposing defense may be caught in a state of shock right now given his poor career numbers. We saw Pat Connaughton scorch the Suns only to fall back to earth with more limited shooting space. The same could be the case for Napier as teams get put on notice about his scoring ability.
Still, Napier is impacting the court even when he’s not scoring; he is active on defense, he makes flashy passes with ease, he knows how to break down the defense on drives.
Napier might not keep up his scorching shooting numbers, but for a team slowly getting back pieces like Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard and eventually Al-Farouq Aminu, the offense needs all it can get right now.