In exchange, the Hornets received the draft rights to P.J. Hairston (taken 26th overall) and Semaj Christon (55th overall), a 2019 second-round draft choice and cash considerations.
Reportedly, the Heat had also been dangling point guard Norris Cole in an effort to move up.
But the Heat kept Cole and added Napier, a player who could potentially replace former Heat starter Mario Chalmers, now a free agent.
“Shabazz Napier is a winner, he’s a two-time NCAA champion and he’s one of the elite players in college basketball,” said Heat president Pat Riley. “We feel very fortunate we were able to acquire him and we feel like he fits in extremely well. He has a high motor, high basketball IQ, is a great shooter and has great character.”
Napier won two national titles at UConn, and ESPN’s Bill Simmons, an avid Boston Celtics fan, reacted with envy and admiration all at once when the Heat news surfaced.
“I’m tired of teams helping Miami,” Simmons said. “I think (Napier is) better than anybody else who played point guard for the Heat last season.”
More importantly than Simmons’ opinion is what LeBron James thinks. The once and perhaps future Heat player — James is a free agent — has tweeted that “Napier is my favorite player in the draft.”
Napier played four seasons at UConn, a bit of a rarity in an era when players bolt early for the NBA. But because he stayed, Napier projects to be more ready to play than most prospects.
More importantly, the Heat hopes their move to get Napier will be the start of convincing James to remain in Miami.
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Napier said Thursday night when media members asked about James. “If me going (to Miami) helps him come back, it just betters our chances of being a complete team.”
Napier said he has been to James’ camps.
“He’s a great guy,” Napier said of James. “Me and him chatted a few times at his camps. … My agent told me he tweeted something about me just now.
“It’s something special to know that one of the best players in the world thinks about you and appreciates your talent. That’s something I’m so humble for.”