NCAAB 

Is this the year Shabazz Napier puts it all together? Jon Rothstein thinks so.

Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com caused quite a stir on Twitter after sharing his opinion on who he thought was the best guard in college.

Many analysts (including Rothstein in the past) have pegged Marcus Smart as the nation’s premier point guard while ranking Shabazz Napier somewhere in the middle of the pack. But Rothstein has changed his opinion after watching Napier in a pre-season practice, and liking what he saw:

 

If there was always a knock on Shabazz Napier other than his inconsistent play early in his college career, it was his lack of vocal leadership. However, according to Mr. Rothstein, Napier has looked the part of a leader, both vocally and by example. Some may argue that vocal leadership from a team’s best player is overblown. After all, Kemba Walker wasn’t the most talkative guy, but he could be trusted to produce every time he took the floor, which inspired those who played around him.

Statistical production is not a weakness of Napier, as Rothstein points out:

There is no debating the first sentence of this tweet, as Napier has seen his ppg, fg%, 3fg%, ft%, and number of steals all rise each year. His defense certainly goes unnoticed, particularly during the 2011 title run. But I have to disagree with Rothstein on the second statement. I don’t think Napier is a “tremendous” on-the-ball defender per se, but that’s nitpicking. I consider him a pesky and disruptive type of defender who can make it difficult for the opposing guard to cleanly dribble the ball into the paint. But because his size, bigger guards can often get by him, and with the new rules, perimeter defense won’t be a as physical as it once was.

What Napier lacks in athleticism and size, he surely makes up for it with his IQ and “feel” for the game:

This “Sam Cassell type of feel” is one of the reasons why Napier has quietly always been one of my favorite guards. The way in which he can operate out of the pick and roll and elude defenders with his dribble, makes me believe in his ability to play at the next level. Even Chris Paul and his campers were victims of Napier’s tricky handle and smooth game.

When one of Rothstein’s followers raised the name Russ Smith, he quickly expressed his allegiance to Napier:

Russ Smith is no slouch, but I also think that Shabbaz Napier is the superior player. He is a better shooter, passer and, playmaker than Smith. He can also play the role of a conventional point guard (something Smith has yet to do) and is the more efficient player.

Things can change and old habits can resurface granted it’s only October, but Rothstein seems pretty confident in his statement. If Napier does play like the best guard in the nation and gets help from the frontcourt, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Huskies in the sweet 16.

 

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