Shabazz Napier was selected with the 24th pick of the NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets, and every University of Connecticut fan’s dream had come true. Napier would team with former Husky Kemba Walker in the Charlotte backcourt to re-create the magic that led UConn to the 2011 NCAA title. But then 60 seconds passed, those hopes were dashed, and new ones emerged – those of LeBron James. The Miami Heat agreed to a trade with the Hornets that would land Napier in South Beach.
We wrote on this potential deal yesterday after ESPN’s Chad Ford reported that the Heat had eyes for Napier. At the time, such a deal seemed unlikely given Miami’s lack of assets, but the rights to 26th overall pick PJ Hairston and two future second-rounders was ultimately enough for the Hornets. Though the Heat’s uncertain situation at point guard surely contributed to their desire for Napier, James’s interest in the 2014 Final Four Most Outstanding Player no doubt did, as well.
LeBron was effusive in praising Napier throughout Connecticut’s run to the NCAA tournament, leading to the tweet below on April 7th.
No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2014
This one is from earlier tonight.
My favorite player in the draft! #Napier
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 27, 2014
Incumbent Miami point guard Mario Chalmers is a free agent this summer and Norris Cole – currently the only player on the Heat roster with a guaranteed contract for next season – is best suited for a back-up role. Obviously, adding Napier certainly makes sense given Miami’s personnel. But LeBron’s influence is obvious here.
Though all indications point to James re-signing with the Heat despite opting out of his contract last week, he reportedly will be unwilling to take a sizable pay-cut unless Miami improves the roster surrounding him. Regardless of the NBA player Napier turns into, going to such lengths to acquire him makes it clear to LeBron that Pat Riley and company are serious about re-shuffling the Heat’s deck.
Adding a valuable player and appeasing LeBron? This is a huge, huge win for Miami.
What do you think of Miami’s trade for Napier?
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