Shabazz Napier Projected to Atlanta Hawks in Updated ESPN NBA Mock Draft


Apr 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Shabazz Napier (13) celebrate after defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 in the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford has been doling out mock drafts for the past nine and a half months, and with the NBA Draft on Thursday, he has issued “Mock Draft 9.0” — his first two-round mock draft.

In Ford’s two-round mock, he projects two-time NCAA Champion Shabazz Napier to the Atlanta Hawks with the 15th-overall pick.

Here is what Ford said about the Hawks’ pick in his mock:

"The Hawks like international players and Nurkic would be a strong possibility if he’s here. They’d also take a long look at Saric if he falls this far, though waiting two years might scare them away.Kyle Anderson is another strong possibility here. Head coach Mike Budenholzer got to see first-hand how the Spurs used Boris Diaw. Anderson is the closest thing we’ve seen to him since Diaw entered the league, and the word is the Hawks are very high on him.However, the Hawks are also not completely sold on Jeff Teague and could explore the market for him this summer. That’s led to them to take long looks at both Shabazz Napier and Payton at No. 15 if something materializes in the next few days. Napier, especially, seems to have gained momentum in workouts the past few weeks and sources say he’s moved into a strong possibility in Atlanta."

Napier led the UConn Huskies to a national title two months ago and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He averaged 21.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals per game throughout the tournament and was inducted into the Huskies of Honor the day after leading Connecticut to the 2014 NCAA Championship.

Shabazz averaged 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.8 steals per game in the regular-season.

Napier is the only player in UConn men’s basketball history with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, and 200 steals. The four-year player also ranks first in school history with 143 games played.

Napier would be an interesting selection for the Hawks, if Ford’s projection rings true, because their point guard situation on the surface is just fine — starter Jeff Teague continues to make strides in his game each year, and will be entering his sixth NBA season, Shelvin Mack stepped up to be a quality backup and rookie Dennis Schroder still has a lot of upside, despite having an overall underachieving first season.

However, none of the three players have a rock solid future in Atlanta.

Teague was nearly poached away from former coach Larry Drew last summer when he got the head coaching job with the Milwaukee Bucks and Teague was a restricted free agent. He had signed a four-year, $32 million offer sheet with the Bucks but the Hawks matched the offer, bringing him back to Atlanta. His name was floating around the rumor mill during the trade deadline in February but nothing was good enough to yank the young floor general away. But as Ford said earlier, the Hawks are not completely sold on Teague and could explore the market for him this summer.

Mack is a restricted free agent. Like Teague’s situation last summer, Mack can sign an offer sheet with any team but Atlanta can bring him back if they match the offer, or they could elect to not match and let him walk. He made it known last month he hopes to return to the Hawks.

Schroder was supposed to serve as Teague’s primary backup last season but lost that role to Mack and didn’t see that much playing time in his rookie campaign, appearing in 49 of 82 games and averaging 3.7 points and 1.9 assists in 13.1 minutes per contest. Schroder’s name has also been swirling around the rumor mill recently, as the Sacramento Kings are said to be interested in the German native and have put the No. 8 overall pick on the trading block.

If the Hawks draft Napier, it would likely mean the end for Schroder. Mack could be brought back for a season or two for insurances purposes with Napier being the eventual successor to Teague, who is under contract for the next three seasons.

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