Shabazz Napier is forcing Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra into an uncomfortable position when it comes to the Heat’s point guards. With Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers ahead of Napier in the depth chart, something might have to change if Napier continues to torch teams in preseason like he did in Miami’s OT win over the still short-handed defending champs on Saturday night.
Napier finished with a game-high 25 points on a somewhat pedestrian 6-of-13 shooting night. But he got to the line for 14 free throws and knocked down 12 of them. He added a team-high four assists for a Heat team missing stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who were held out on coach’s orders. The rookie also showed off his handle with this pretty step-back.
Napier was famously LeBron James‘ favorite choice back before he’d decided to sign with Cleveland as a free agent, and the Heat traded up in the draft to snag him after Charlotte selected him with the No. 24 pick in this years draft.
It’ll be a difficult decision to relegate Norris Cole, who won two titles in his first two seasons with Miami, to a third-string role, but Napier’s play makes it look increasingly likely he’ll crack Miami’s rotation.
“We’re not coming to any conclusions right now,” Spoelstra said after the game, but he has to be impressed with the mature rookie’s performance so far this preseason.
Shabazz was humble as well, even though he’s played well in his first few appearances at the NBA level.
“I’m still just trying to learn and understand,” he said after the game.
Napier scored 14 points with two dimes on Friday night in Miami’s win over the Warriors and added 12 points and four assists in their loss to Atlanta on Tuesday. He also showed his stuff in front of James when the Heat were in Brazil last weekend, finishing the Cavs win with 16 points and seven dimes in just 19:40 of game time.
Will Napier inherit a backup role with the Heat?
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.