MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Heat got the guard they wanted, and made LeBron James thrilled in the process.
The Heat acquired the draft rights to Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night, giving up the 26th and 55th picks to make the deal happen, along with a future second-round choice and cash considerations.
“My favorite player in the draft!” James tweeted in reference to Napier.
And that’s a very good sign for Miami’s future.
“It’s a perfect moment for my family,” Napier said.
Napier was taken at No. 24 by Charlotte, two slots before Miami drafted former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston for the Hornets. Miami took former Xavier guard Semaj Christon in the second round, also sending his rights to the Hornets.
“We’re very fortunate to have drafted Shabazz and we feel very excited about him and what he can bring,” Heat President Pat Riley said. “He’s a two-time champion, high-motor guy, character guy.”
James has opted out of the last two years of his Heat contract and will become a free agent next week, but he’s clearly a fan of Napier’s game. During Connecticut’s run to the NCAA title this spring, James tweeted, “No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.”
Napier wasn’t a lottery pick, but wound up on a team that clearly both wanted him and wanted to make James happy.
“It’s just something special to know that one of the best players in the world thinks about you and appreciates your talent,” Napier said. “That’s something that I’m so humble for.”
Napier averaged 13.7 points in his four seasons at Connecticut, going 12-1 in NCAA tournament games and winning two titles in his time with the Huskies. He averaged 18 points per game as a senior, and improved his outside shot in each of his final three college seasons.
And the Heat have done fairly well with UConn guards in the past: Ray Allen has been in Miami for the last two seasons.
“The first thing that jumps off is the winning attitude,” Napier said, when asked about the parallels he sees between Miami and Connecticut. “That’s one of the biggest things. When you compete at that high level, you want to win every single game. That winning attitude comes in the first day you arrive at that camp. On the first day you arrive to that organization, you want to work, and you want to prove that you can get back there.”
The draft is just the first step of what’s going to be a busy couple of weeks for the Heat.
Free agency’s epicenter this summer may as well be Miami, with James already a free agent, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh deciding if they will opt out as well, and several other players from this year’s team also looking for new contracts either in Miami or otherwise. Wade and Bosh have not revealed if they will forgo their final two years on their existing Miami deals.
Another free agent from Miami is starting point guard Mario Chalmers, which might be one of many reasons why the Heat liked Napier.
“There’s always opportunity to do something great, and no matter if I was going to slide in as a starter or come off the bench, I’m still going to work hard,” Napier said. “I’m going to compete. That’s who I am.”
Forward Chris Andersen, who has a $1.4 million option for next season, said Thursday night that he will wait until free agency begins to make any decisions. It has been long expected that he would not opt-in and instead seek a more lucrative deal.
“My plan is to wait until July 1st,” Andersen said Thursday night at an appearance with hundreds of fans at Madisons NY in Boca Raton, Florida. “Definitely got to see what’s going on. I mean, it’s a decision that has to be made. Just seeing what’s going to happen July 1st.”
On July 1, Napier is expected to working out with the Heat summer league team. And he can’t wait.
“My mind right now is twirling,” Napier said. “I’m going to be honest with you. I’m just super happy right now.”
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