Shabazz Napier (6’1″, 175) is an accomplished player. The 4-year UCONN star won 2 National Championships as a Husky, was 1st Team AP All-American in 2014 and has been invited to the Green Room for tonight’s NBA Draft.
Russ Smith (6’1″, 160) is also an accomplished player. The 4-year Louisville star won a National Championship went to 2 Final Fours, was 1st Team AP All-American in 2014 and WAS NOT invited to the Green Room for tonight’s NBA Draft and isn’t expected to be selected in the 1st Round.
Russ has said in interviews leading up to the draft that he feels like he has proved himself beyond players who are more highly regarded. There isn’t a player in the Draft that fits that description better than Shabazz Napier.
Being in the same conference and being of similar size Shabazz vs. Russ is a natural argument. Both won titles, and Louisville & UCONN both have shared conference affiliation for 4 years producing 8 games during that time.
Shabazz Napier was 1-7 vs. Louisville during his collegiate career. Napier & his Huskies were outscored 597-495 (average +12.75 margin per game) during the last 4 seasons.
But comparing Russ Smith to Shabazz Napier isn’t really fair dating back to 2011. Russ Smith played just 6 minutes in the 3 games played in 2010-11 while Shabazz logged 80 in 3 games. UConn did win their ONLY game against the Cards in the last 4 years during their 2011 National Championship run with the Huskies beating the Cards 69-66 in the Big East Championship Final under an ultra-red-hot Kemba Walker.
The comparisons between Russ and Shabazz really start taking place during the 3-year stretch between the 2011-12 seasons through the 2013-14 seasons. During that time, 5 games were played between the two schools. Louisville was 5-0. Here are the particulars.
Russ Smith: 5-0 (W-L), 74 pts, 147 mins, 26-61 FG, 4-14 3FG, 11 rebs, 22 ast, 11 stls, 12 TOs
Shabazz Napier: 0-5 (W-L), 76 pts, 181 mins, 30-93, 16-57 3FG, 30 rebs, 18 ast, 12 stls, 26 TOs
Clearly the W-L record heavily tilts this into Russ Smith’s favor. But the (Assist+Steal/Turnovers)/Minutes Played Figure is OFF THE CHARTS.
Russ Smith: (22 ast+11steals/12 Turnovers)/147Minutes=0.01870748
Shabazz Napier: (18ast+12steals/26Turnovers)/181Minutes=0.00637484
If you aren’t a math major. Russ’ number is 2.93x better than Shabazz’s head to head. That’s significant and it’s also a big part of the reason why Louisville was able to go 5-0 against a program like UCONN.
Also consider reputations. Russ is considered a ‘volume shooter’ with little appetite to pass. But in his 5 match-ups against Napier Russ took 2 fewer shots, made 6 more, and had 3 more assists in 34 FEWER minutes.
In the 5 games since 2012 (in which Russ played) Louisville was 5-0 but also won 381-290, a margin of 81 points and an average margin of victory of +18.5. HUGE.
So tonight when you see Shabazz in the NBA Draft Green Room, consider that Russ Smith is at the Yum! Practice Facility on Floyd Street working out. Getting better. Russ will hear his name called and is already a “Shabazz-Killer”, when Napier goes ahead of Russdiculous tonight it was be just like Russ says, “Another Log on the Fire”.
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