A backcourt-heavy team could be very different in 2013-14. Here’s the outlook on each of UConn’s four guards:
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright (AP)
*Shabazz Napier — I’m warming up to the idea that Shabazz Napier should declare for the 2013 NBA Draft. One NBA scout pegged him as a likely second-rounder and said, “Napier is interesting because at times he seems a step ahead of everyone else, he also seems feisty and tough, but I’m not sure that he is a leader yet.”
Napier’s dilemma is unique. He would probably be plucked anywhere from the late first to late second round, and usually that’s not enough to warrant early entry. But Napier should heavily consider it for two reasons: This is a rather weak 2013 draft class (especially for guards) and his stock may be near its peak. For 90 percent of the season, Napier has been excellent. He’s been a scorer, a distributor, a rebounder and a defender. Outside of Georgetown’s Otto Porter, I’m not sure there has been a Big East player more valuable to his team.
So how much can Napier’s stock realistically improve?
The two knocks on him are size and athleticism, attributes that won’t change in his senior season.
In a 2013 point guard crop that features Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and a few other fringe first-rounders, Napier might be wise to submit his name.
*Ryan Boatright – I’m cooling down on the idea of Boatright jumping to the pros for one reason: I’m not sure he’ll be drafted — at least not in 2013.
This isn’t about Boatright’s stinker versus Villanova. Everybody has bad games. It’s about the body of work. Boatright has been inconsistent, shooting a blistering 58 percent for a month and then a subpar 36 for the next. His size is a serious concern at the next level. If he struggles to get his shot off against Stony Brook guards, imagine how it’ll be in the NBA. And if he has trouble against bigger college guards….
Overall, Boatright’s game is not as polished as Napier’s. He has room to grow, and — unlike his backcourt counterpart — his stock can improve significantly with another year in Storrs.
*Omar Calhoun – The 6-foot-5 shooting guard isn’t going to the NBA quite yet. But following a very strong freshman campaign, he’ll be considered one of Big East’s top guards in 2013-14. Calhoun has delivered some enormous clutch shots and, as UConn coach Kevin Ollie noted last week, made strides on defense. Expect big things from OC next season.
*R.J. Evans – There isn’t any substance to this, but R.J. Evans would be a solid addition to the UConn coaching staff in 2013-14. It seems likely that George Blaney, 73, will retire, opening an assistant coaching vacancy. Perhaps Ollie will elevate Kevin Freeman to assistant, put Ricky Moore in charge of basketball operations and allow Evans, who turns 23 in May, to become assistant director of basketball operations. Of course, Evans could slide into a grad assistant position, but that spot is currently occupied by Dave Sevush, who has one year left.
Either way, Evans is certainly a leader — Ollie has called him “the rock” of the team. He’s also a strong student and active member in the community, an embodiment of Ollie’s vision for UConn basketball.
Adding Evans to the staff makes plenty of sense to me.