In what was set to be his last move as the New York Knicks GM, Donnie Walsh, who basically rebuilt the franchise from ruins, selected Georgia Tech point guard Iman Shumpert.
The selection of Shumpert may not be what every fan was looking for. It may not be the perfect solution to all of the Knicks' problems, but what it could be is the addition of another small piece to a puzzle gradually being constructed by the Knicks. And if he plays his role right, Shumpert could be a big help to the team next season.
Let’s think about this. He is 6’5" athletic freak known for his superb defensive work, particularly on the perimeter, and excellent rebounding skills.
The Knicks, of course, ranked in the bottom third of the league defensively last season, and their rebounding was lazy and subpar. Some have criticized Shumpert’s offensive play, but he averaged a respectable 17.3 points in 31 games as a junior last year.
In fact, he became one of four players in ACC history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. In addition, by every report, he was the knockout winner of the NBA draft combine, blowing scouts away with his better-than-advertised measurables. Those who were worried about his ability to shoot from the outside left satisfied that he was up to the task.
Florida State forward Chris Singleton, another great defensive player who may have been the best player available, was still on the board when the Knicks picked.
But Walsh accurately noted that the Knicks have no urgent need for a small forward/power forward type, having acquired superstars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony over the last two years. Singleton would have had trouble finding any playing time behind Anthony, and he is not suited to playing guard, so there would have been no chance for him to make an immediate impact, something the Knicks clearly wanted from this draft pick.
It was also something that they clearly needed—recall that they traded their first round pick for 2012 away in the Tracy McGrady deal, so their will likely be no chance to draft an impact player next year.
With Chauncey Billups getting older and in the last year of a contract, the Knicks need an eventual heir. Shumpert is considered more of a combo guard than a true point, but Walsh seems to think he has the requisite play skills to make the transition.
“I think with our team offensively, he probably will play more point than he will two guard, because Chauncey can play ‘two’ probably as good as anybody,” Walsh said after the draft. “I think he can run pick-and-roll, I think he’ll see the play, and he’ll get better at it.”
If the Knicks want to become an all-around great team, they need to be better on defense. If they want to be better on defense, they need better defensive players. Shumpert is a fantastic defensive player who, because of the position he plays, will have a chance to make a big splash in New York next season. With his addition to the team, the puzzle, while still unfinished, is really starting to take shape.