For about 45 seconds, Shabazz Napier and Kemba Walker had been reunited, a draft story too good to be true here in Connecticut.
Turns out Napier was Miami-bound, a draft story too good to be true in South Beach.
Some quick impressions from draft night:
**Of the 30 NBA franchises Napier could landed with, Miami is the best fit. He’s probably better than Mario Chalmers right now, and he’ll have a legitimate chance to start and/or play major minutes as a rookie on a championship-contending team.
Why does he fit so well? Napier is lights-out (he’s probably a better 3-point shooter than he gets credit for) and because the ball is often in the hands of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat need spot-up shooters on the perimeter. And when either or both is on the bench, Napier is fully capable as a pick-and-roll point guard.
**Five point guards were taken ahead of Napier. Yes, that’ll piss him off.
While being interviewed, Napier called himself “the best point guard in the draft.” If anyone has earned the right to say that, it’s #13.
In my column Thursday, I examined the classic “Potential versus Promise” debate. History doesn’t favor either. Sometimes the experienced senior near his ceiling ends up the better pro (think Jameer Nelson at No. 20 compared to Sebastian Telfair at No. 13 in 2004). Sometimes it works the other way (think Jrue Holiday at No. 17 compared to Eric Maynor at No. 20 in 2009).
I won’t declare that Napier will easily be the best point guard in this draft because I don’t know. But I will say this: Napier is in a perfect situation, and other point guards aren’t. That’ll go a long way.
And Napier isn’t your average senior point guard, although for comparison’s sake we try to fit him into that box. It’s unfair to compare Napier to, say, Mateen Cleaves, a big-time winner in college who couldn’t shoot well enough to stick at the next level. Remember: Napier can fill it up. Seniors have this weird connotation of being offensively limited; that couldn’t be further from the truth with Napier.
This is one of the most accomplished college basketball players of our time. His skills are more-than-NBA ready, and his intangibles far surpass some other senior point guards who flamed out in the NBA.
In a few years, we could look back at some picks — Elfrid Payton, a 26 percent 3-point shooter at No. 10; Zach LaVine, a UCLA freshman who hit double-figures in four of his final 18 games — and wonder, “What the hell were these teams thinking?”
I bet that’s what Napier is thinking tonight.