Shabazz Napier was a pleasant surprise this season for the Portland Trail Blazers after unsuccessful stints with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. Napier came into the league in 2014-15, but it took until 2017-18 for him to look ready for a true role. Still, Napier had a tale of two seasons. To start the year, he looked like the sixth man prolific benches have; then, around January, he couldn’t keep up his shooting magic and saw Wade Baldwin IV make an impression on the court instead.
Despite the drop-off, Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report ranks Napier No. 7 on his list of free-agent point guards:
The lasting impression Napier left before heading into restricted free agency involves plenty of clangs and time spent on the bench watching the rest of Rip City. But he does have a few elements working in his favor, even beyond the lightning he bottled during the first half of the basketball calendar.
Age works in Napier’s advantage, and he also proved himself a solid defender during Portland’s team-wide revival on the preventing end. Not only did he post the first positive score of his career in defensive box plus/minus, but he similarly graded out in the green for ESPN.com’s defensive real plus/minus.
His shooting remains questionable, and his passing often verges on nonexistent. But his defense is real, and that gives Napier a higher floor than some of the veteran 1-guards hitting the open market.
Napier averaged 8.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 20.7 minutes per game this season. He shot 42 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from three.
It’s yet to be seen what kind of market there will be for Napier — which will help determine if the Blazers can bring him back without breaking the bank — or if the Blazers want to bring him back at all with Baldwin waiting in the wings.
Would you like to see Napier back with the Blazers next season? Let us know in the comments.