Thursday, May 8, 2014

Kemba Walker vs. Shabazz Napier

The comparisons are obvious. Napier and Kemba were both point guards that led two young squads that weren’t even on the radar to make deep runs in the tournament and took them all the way, but which UConn Husky was the best to wear the jersey? I breakdown each part of their game to see who really is the best Husky.

Jumper: Clear Winner Napier.

Kemba Walker has always had a hard shot, which means that it takes a high bounce when it hits the rim which doesn’t allow him the opportunity for a friendly bounce. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t a good jump shooter. He has steadily improved in this area and his outside shot is more of a weapon for him, but his major damage is on luring his defender to sleep with the dribble and knocking down something closer to the rim.

Napier has no lack of range and can knock down jumpers anywhere on the court at anytime. He isn’t Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant like, but who is? He has a soft jumper that gets friendly rolls and is deadly with both creating his own jumper off the dribble or pick and pop shots off the ball. He still takes some unwise shots from deep but that comes with some overconfidence.

Ball handling: Clear Winner Walker.

This is Walker’s clear strength. He has incredible ball handling and speed with the dribble. He can use both hands and can split double teams whenever and wherever he wants. This speed has caused him to thrive in the NBA which has better spacing and he creates havoc in the lanes.

Napier has a really good handle but it doesn’t compare to Kemba’s. He still has a knack for utilizing the pick and roll and can dribble in and out of trouble though he doesn’t overuse it like Walker does sometimes.

Crossover: Clear Winner Walker.

Walker has a nasty change of directions and has one or two field goals a game by shaking his defender free in this manner. He has such a command of the dribble and deceptive speed that he utilizes it to his advantage.

It is isn’t that Napier doesn’t have a great handle, but it isn’t Kemba Walker like. Whenever Napier starts dazzling with the dribble, it tends to be when the shot clock is winding down. He doesn’t use it on as frequent of a basis like Walker does.

Fast Break: Slight Winner Walker.

Kemba is a one man fast break and in the open court, he is in attack mode. If he has a step on you then it is a lay-up.

Napier isn’t as quick as Walker, but he has better court vision and will see that wing man spotting up for a 3-pointer or a trailer behind him on the break. He is looking more to deliver the ball then attack.

Free Throws: Clear Winner Napier.

Walker isn't a bad free throw shooter but his shot doesn’t get the friendly bounce because it hits the rim with more force than Napier. Kemba does have an edge though because his game tends to get him to the line and he will have more of an opportunity to get free throws than Napier.

Napier is one of UConn’ s best free throw shooters ever and it will definitely transfer to the next level. He isn’t afraid to take and make pressure free throws. It will be interesting to see how his game translates to the NBA and if he will get to the line as much as he did in college.

Dribble Penetration: Clear Winner Walker.

No disrespect to Napier, but this is Walker’s strength. He can slip past a screen and get into seams with the best in the NBA. It puts a lot of pressure on defenses to try to keep him bottled up.

Napier isn’t as fast as Walker so it will allow teams to wall him from the lane more, but it isn’t like he can’t get there. With Kevin Ollie’s use of the pick and rolls, Napier has plenty of experience to get the job done but Walker is one of the best at it.

Court Vision: Clear Winner Napier.

Walker’s one weakness is his court vision though he has steadily been working on it. He tends to miss some open players or pass the ball a second too late.

Napier has more of a command of the floor with the ball in his hands and can see the open man before he gets open. It should translate better at the next level where the talent around him is ratcheted up a notch.

Passing: Clear Winner Napier.

Like Court Vision, Walker is still working on his passing skills. He is more of a scoring point guard and his passes come more from his drawing in defenders and then kicking the ball out.

This is Napier’s strength. He sees the floor so well and has a variety of passes, though he tends to get a bit too fancy at times. With better spacing in the NBA, Napier should thrive and become a dependable NBA point guard.

Steals: Close Winner Walker.

Both players do a great job of defending and timing dribbles. They are pretty much a mirror of each other which might be a product of UConn’s development, but Walker edges out Napier by a hair because of his shear speed and lateral quickness. His ability to stay close to the ball allows him with more opportunities to get steals, but it isn’t like Napier doesn’t have the knack for it. Shabazz does a great job of timing the dribble, but it felt like he made more of an impact with steals during his freshman season then he did in the other seasons even though he made some key steals in the most recent NCAA tournament run.

Deflections: Close Winner Walker.

Just like in Steals, Napier and Walker both are mirrors of each other and are very active on the defensive end, but again Walker’s speed gives him the edge here. He is connected to his man more especially when his opponent is playing off the ball. Napier has a tendency to give a cushion when playing off the ball.

Man-to-Man Defense: Edge Walker.

Once again it comes down to speed and Kemba has the advantage that helps him get to the spot before his opponent does. Napier is a very good defender, but does sometimes shy off his man a bit, especially on the wings.

Rebounding: Clear Winner Napier.

Walker isn't known for his rebounding and usually hovered around the perimeter for the outlet passes which didn’t allow him for rebounds.

Napier has a knack for getting those weak side rebounds and isn’t afraid to battle in the paint for boards. This is one of Napier’s major strengths. It will be interesting to see if he can carry it over into the NBA

Clutch Shooting: Close Winner Napier

The ice water runs strong in these both Napier and Walker. Everyone remembers Walker’s amazing shot against Pittsburgh in the Big East Tournament and that moment will forever be immortalized but Napier has time and again hit clutch shot after clutch shot in key situations be it Florida or Villanova. UConn has been spoiled for the last seven years with two players that feel comfortable with taking the last shot in huge spots.


Winner: Kemba Walker.

It was closer then expected but it was Walker’s quickness that ultimately outdid Napier’s floor awareness. While Kemba won the head to head challenge, Napier does get credit for being more vital to UConn’s ultimate future. He stuck around during a period where UConn basketball teetered on the brink of disaster. They were academically ineligible and their once daunted league fell apart, but Napier stayed with the program and not only made UConn relevant, but planted the UConn flag back on top of the college basketball Mount Rushmore as one of the elite programs in the country. For that UConn fans have to tip their caps to.

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