With the 17th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks selected guard Iman Shumpert out of Georgia Tech. According to the reaction of the large Knick fan contingent just across the Hudson River at the Prudential Center, the Knicks fans were clearly unhappy with the team’s first-round selection. Spike Lee was also a bit surprised at the pick.
When he was asked his opinion, he basically told ESPN that he didn’t know who Shumpert was and that Knicks fans have to deal with the pick even if they don’t agree with it.
Knicks fans have voiced their frustration with the pick on sports talk shows and on social media sites, many of them feeling that New York should have gone with a big man who can rebound and defend other teams’ centers.
It is understandable for Knicks fans to feel this way. And why wouldn’t they after picks like Jordan Hill, Mardy Collins, Renaldo Balkman, and Andy Rautins the past few years? But there is something totally different about the Iman Shumpert draft pick that fans should understand before comparing this draft choice to the previous draft busts listed above.
After the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony and added another superstar to the roster to play with Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks became relevant again at the Garden. The Knicks made the playoffs for the first time in seven years and washed out the stench of the Isaiah Thomas era by finally finishing with a winning record. The team became a scoring juggernaut and a force to be reckoned with in the east. The only problem, however, was defense.
Iman Shumpert was drafted for this very reason. Experts say that the former-Georgia Tech guard is the one of the best athletes and defensive players in the draft. At 6’6’’220 pounds, Shumpert has a 6’11’’ wingspan and an incredible 36.5’vertical leap which is the highest since Nick Young back in 2007.
Shumpert can play point guard or shooting guard, he can clog the lane and deflect passes, and he is great in transition. Scouts say the 20-year-old can go coast-to-coast extremely quickly. He has a pretty good offensive game, averaging 17.3 points per game, 3.5 assists, 2.7 steals, and 5.9 rebounds per game.
His rebounding will greatly help the Knicks at the guard position and his defense will hopefully allow Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to focus more on offense. Shumpert was brought to New York to shut down Ray Allen who exploded against the Knicks in the postseason, and two of the league’s best guards; Dwayne Wade, and Derrick Rose.
Georgia Tech has produced some solid guards like Jarrett Jack, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Morrow, and Stephon Marbury. Shumpert will benefit from playing with veteran Chauncey Billups who will teach him the ropes at the guard position. While Iman’s defense will immediately be a success in the NBA, his offense will develop and he will score more points as he gets more experience in the league.
To those who have complained that the Knicks should have drafted a center, you cannot blame the Knicks for their 17th overall pick. The Knicks would have drafted Nikola Vucevic out of USC had the 76ers not taken him the pick before.
This left the Knicks with Morehead State 6’8’’ forward Kenneth Faried and Florida State’s Chris Singleton as the only other options at forward/center. However, Faried is a bit undersized to be a center, and 6’9’’ Singleton probably wouldn’t have fit in at the center position as well playing for the Knicks.
Lastly, the Knicks made the right choice with Shumpert because the team didn’t need a superstar and it didn’t need another scorer. It didn’t need a Jimmer Fredette and it didn’t need a savior like Kyrie Irving to excite the crowd at the Prudential Center. New York already has scorers who can carry a team and someone like Shumpert will pick up the slack for Anthony and Stoudemire on the defensive end.
It might be Donnie Walsh’s last week with the team, but trust him on this one. He knows what he is doing. He is the one who drafted Reggie Miller despite all of the criticism that he received. No one is saying Shumpert will turn out to like Reggie Miller, but he is a player that will fit in with the D’Antoni system and finally bring some defense to a team that has so desperately needed it. The pick was aimed at creating a better team and fixing the short term problems that the Knicks have.
Don’t expect Shumpert to become a Rajon Rondo or Dwayne Wade. What you can expect, however, is a Bruce Bowen-type player who will contribute to the overall success of the team even though he might not have great numbers. Expect the Knicks to play further into the playoffs with Shumpert in the rotation.