Brooklyn Nets: Shabazz Napier settling in just fine, thanks

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets on Friday night got a big boost from free-agent acquisition Shabazz Napier, who had some serious heat checks in New Orleans.

The Brooklyn Nets signed free agent Shabazz Napier this offseason with the hopes he could provide some quality minutes as a backup guard. In just his second game since returning from a hamstring injury, Napier gave Brooklyn more than that Friday night.

Napier played 15 minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans, pouring in 16 points from a variety of angles.

Napier hit 3-of-6 from long range and was 6-for-11 overall and gave the Nets a big offensive shot in the arm with seven points early in the fourth quarter.

Did we mention a variety of angles?

Napier was playing mostly on the ball opposite Spencer Dinwiddie while he was out there, while also chipping in with two rebounds, an assist and a steal — and no turnovers.

He gave the Nets a nice burst in 15 minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, when he made his delayed debut for Brooklyn after missing the entire preseason and the first three regular-season games with a strained right hamstring.

Napier had two steals to go with eight points on 2-of-6 shooting against the Cavs and is now averaging 12 points in just 15 minutes per game through his first two outings.

That would be more than would have been expected for a player who averaged a career-best 8.7 points per game last season for the Portland Trail Blazers.

It was a tough NBA start for Napier, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 Final Four while a senior at Connecticut. Selected 24th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, he was swapped to the Miami Heat on draft night and never found his stride in South Beach.

He averaged 5.1 points and 2.5 assists in 19.8 minutes per game while appearing in only 51 games and shooting .382/.364/.786.

That offseason, he was traded to the Orlando Magic, where he was pushed even deeper in the rotation. Appearing in 55 games, Napier put up 3.7 points in 10.9 minutes a night and shot .338/.327/.733. Not great.

Another offseason brought another trade, this time to the Portland Trail Blazers, and he got even less burn while stuck behind Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Allen Crabbe in the Portland rotation.

Napier averaged only 9.7 minutes in 2016-17 to go with 4.1 points per game on .399/.370/.776 shooting.

But after that season, Crabbe was traded to the Nets and Napier won the third guard spot. Playing 20.7 minutes a game, Napier also shot the ball better, hitting at a .420/.376/.841 clip.

Slight of build at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Napier’s quickness and fast hands can make him a pest on defense.

Offensively, Portland often paired him with Lillard and played him off the ball on the offensive end.

He’s back behind several players in the rotation — with D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Dinwiddie and Crabbe all getting more minutes.

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But if Napier keeps making the most of his opportunities as he did Friday, he might earn some more burn.