There is no denying that the Cleveland Cavaliers are a team on a mission to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance together with the Golden State Warriors. However, it is safe to say that LeBron James and company’s real mission would not only be to compete with the defending champions, but also to win their second title in three years.
At the moment, some analysts believe that the Cavaliers are still one player away from doing just that even though Isaiah Thomas has now come back from his hip injury. A key trade before the league’s February 8 deadline is expected by fans and pundits alike, and the latest rumor has linked the Portland Trail Blazers’ substitute point guard Shabazz Napier to the Cavs.
Napier, 26, is having a mercurial season so far in 31 games with the 19-18 Blazers. There are some nights when he would score more than 20 points coming off the bench for head coach Terry Stotts, but can also be left scoreless in others. Case in point was his 0-for-5 performance from the field during the Blazers’ 127-110 loss to the Cavs at the Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday. He only played 14 minutes in the game that featured Thomas’ season debut as well as Damian Lillard’s return from a five-game hiatus due to hamstring issues.
Right now, Napier is averaging 9.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 steals in 20.1 minutes per game, which are considered decent numbers for a primary backup point guard. They are also career-high stats for the former Connecticut standout so far in his young four-year career.
Apart from the Blazers’ two All-Stars, Lillard and shooting guard C.J. McCollum, Napier is said to be the team’s current top trade asset, per SB Nation’s The Blazer’s Edge blog. The blog said that the two-time NCAA champion has “grown into the darling of Rip City” as a reliable support to Lillard this season, especially on the offensive end.
According to the report, the issue with Napier is not his recent on-court inconsistencies, but his “current contract status.” Napier will enter restricted free-agency in July as he heads into the tail-end of his rookie contract.
With his perceived value as one of the top bench players in the league, the report believed that Napier will become a potential target before this year’s deadline and during free-agency in the summer.
The blog then forecasted that the Cavaliers would be interested in trading for Napier as the Eastern Conference champs try to reinforce their broken backcourt heading into the second half of the season.
Napier was reportedly a “favorite” of LeBron as the four-time league MVP had expressed admiration towards him even before the 2014 NBA Draft.
Until Thomas’ debut, the Cavs have relied heavily on James to act as the team’s point guard because of lack of manpower at the said position. Veteran guard Jose Calderon is the official starter while used-to-be starting floor general Derrick Rose is still unavailable due to various reasons.
Thomas’ return somehow alleviates the need at the one-guard spot, but as compared to their other conference rivals, the Cavs are not as “set at the point guard position,” the report added.