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2019-20 Wizards player evaluations: Does Shabazz Napier have a role in Washington next season after a poor bubble performance?

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The Washington Wizards guard arrived as a late season addition where he showed some promise before the season was suspended, and flamed out once play resumed in Orlando.

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards
Shabazz Napier was a late addition for the Wizards where he helped shore up the point guard rotation. However, his time in Washington may be very short.
Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

Shabazz Napier has been a journeyman point guard since his career started in 2014. He played for his fifth and sixth NBA teams last season, starting with the Minnesota Timberwolves and ending with the Washington Wizards after a midseason trade that sent him first to the Denver Nuggets and then to Washington in a trade for Jordan McRae.

Is Napier an option at point guard for the team nest season with John Wall expected to return? Let’s review his season, and more specifically, his time with the Wizards in the sections below:

Statistics

Napier averaged 11.6 points and 3.8 assists per game in 20 games with the Wizards, including 10 starts. During his time in the Orlando bubble, Napier averaged 10.2 points per game in five contests. For the entire season, Napier averaged 10.3 points and 4.7 assists per game.

Here are Napier’s scores in Kevin Broom’s Player Production Average (PPA) metric, which gauges a player’s effectiveness on the court:

  • Wizards games before the bubble: 113
  • Wizards games during the bubble: -10 (yes, that’s a NEGATIVE score)
  • Timberwolves games: 107
  • Full season: 99

In PPA, 100 is average. At 150 or higher, the player is playing at an All-Star level, and scores can past 200. On the lower end, 75 is around the mark for a decent reserve. Scores below a 45 are indicative of someone who is easily replaced.

In Napier’s case, he was around league average for the season as a whole. However, his time in the bubble was forgettable. Yes, he averaged 10 points per game, but he also committed more than 3 turnovers per game in just 20 minutes per contest. That, and two poor shooting performances in bubble play partly explain why Napier had a negative PPA score in his five bubble games.

For more information on PPA, click here.

Strengths

Napier shot at rates close to his career-highs. With the Wizards, he made 42.8% of his shots overall and made two threes per game at a rate of 35.8%. Both of these improved on his shooting with the Timberwolves this season.

Napier finished the pre-bubble part of the 2019-20 NBA season with consecutive 20 point performances, including a 27 point, 7 assist performance against the Miami Heat on Mar. 8 and a 21-point performance against the New York Knicks on Mar. 10, the last game Washington had before the season was suspended. Watch his highlights against the Heat in the video below.

Weaknesses

The one weakness Napier can’t control is his height. He’s just 6-1 and he has a harder time defending bigger point guards. It’s not surprising that his defensive rating was a 115 in his games with Washington, and close to that over the past three season.

Another major weakness: turnovers. He had a turnover rate of 19.7% last season — 19.1% in Minnesota and 20.5% in Washington. That’s somewhat surprising. The preceding two seasons, his turnovers were down to 13.2% and 11.7% respectively, which suggested he’d learned to better control the ball.

Napier’s turnover problem was especially evident in the bubble. Before the bubble, he averaged 4.3 turnovers per 100 possessions. That went up to 7.2 in the bubble — the worst mark in the bubble among players who got at least 100 minutes. And if that weren’t enough, his assists fell from 8.2 assists per 100 possessions to 3.8 during the bubble.

What’s ahead for Napier?

Napier will be an unrestricted free agent after earning $1.8 million this past season. Back in March and April, Washington indicated that they wanted to sign him to another contract this offseason. However, with Napier playing so poorly in the bubble and ending his time in Orlando sidelined due to an ankle injury, it’s harder to say.

The Wizards could offer the veteran minimum to bring Napier back, but his playing time figures to be limited with Wall returning, the likely return of Ish Smith and the possibility of Troy Brown playing some point guard minutes. Brown, of course, spent time at the position when bubble play was coming to an end. It’s possible Napier could get a better payday and a better opportunity than the Wizards are able to offer.