NBA Draft 2011: Iman Shumpert and 10 Most Underrated Draft Picks
All that needed to be said about the New York Knicks' selection of Georgia Tech point guard Iman Shumpert was on the face of lifelong Knicks fanatic Spike Lee. To say that he was disappointed is an understatement. But the reality is that Shumpert is an underrated draft pick.
He's not the only one, either.
There are several players from the 2011 NBA draft whom I believe are underrated according to the general populous' reaction to them, i.e., ESPN's reaction to them or lack thereof.
Ten such players to be exact.
It used to be that any player that prides himself on defense would be underrated, but thankfully, the NBA has moved past that mentality, signified by the seventh overall selection of Bismack Biyombo, a pure defensive player.
An interesting dichotomy exists with our perception of underrated players. They are deemed so usually because we either get used to talking about them all the time or hardly at all.
Let's give these guys their due.
The Milwaukee Bucks have gotten a quality small forward in Tobias Harris. I think a good NBA comparison is Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince.
Even as the best player on a Tennessee Volunteer team that had a tumultuous season, you would hardly know that Harris was affected at all by the scrutiny.
Maybe he wasn't.
That kind of mental fortitude is so rare in 19 year olds, and it fits his game perfectly. Harris will almost never wow you with his highlight reel dunks, drives or fade away threes, but he will always be focused, be a quiet leader on the floor and always be in the right place at the right time. Always.
That makes him sound like he's a Rudy Ruettiger-ish player. Not true. He takes tremendous talent and mixes in some actual work ethic and basketball intelligence.
Don't be surprised if you see Harris as an everyday starter by the middle of the 2011-2012 season.
Here's an example of a player that got so much press early in the college basketball season that we're overlooking him now.
Nolan Smith was in contention for player of the year honors all year at Duke. He led the team (which included top overall pick Kyrie Irving) in points and assists per game.
Smith had two of his biggest games last year against arch-rival North Carolina with 34 and 30 points in each game. Stepping up on the biggest stage is something that should never be underrated.
As a Portland Trail Blazer, he is going to have the opportunity to play right away. The oft-injured Brandon Roy and surprise second-year player Wesley Matthews are the only two shooting guards in front of him after the trade of Rudy Fernandez.
Smith has been taught by the game's best coach and will bring great poise to an already talented Portland team.
The two-man show at Purdue was led by the talented big man JaJuan Johnson. Still, I've heard very little coverage of him since the draft and was surprised to see him go in the late first round.
Johnson led the Boilermakers in scoring, rebounds, blocks and minutes last year and was the leader of the 26-8 team.
He and guard teammate E'Twaun Moore had to virtually carry the team the entire season, accounting for over 50 percent of all scoring. Johnson has proven his mettle and will prosper with the Boston Celtics.
Rajon Rondo has the same kind of skills as Moore (but is about 10 times better at all of them), which should help Johnson make the transition from college to pro easier.
Glen Davis only showed flashes of what he could be, so if Johnson builds chemistry with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, I believe this underrated draftee could make a big impact in 2011-2012.
If not for a semester-long suspension, Josh Selby might've been a late first-round pick. Instead, the Kansas shooting guard cooled off at the end of the season and his stock fell.
Good thing there are plenty of other guards for him to learn from on his new Memphis Grizzlies team.
Before a foot injury that interrupted his season, Selby averaged 12 points (including two three-pointers) and 1.2 steals per game. After the injury, those numbers plummeted to 3.8 points (half a three-pointer) and 0.4 steals per game.
Isn't it fair to say that the injury had a lot to do with his weak second half? The injury itself was merely a stress reaction, which means rest over the offseason should help it completely heal.
If he can relocate his three-point shooting, he'll have a spot on a Grizzlies roster that suffered from the lack of an outside scoring threat. Memphis ranked 27th in three-point percentage last season.
Selby's play could also open the door for O.J. Mayo to be shopped for a big man, so you need to keep an eye on this one.
On a star-studded Kentucky Wildcats roster, DeAndre Liggins managed to be the glue that put it all together.
That's an extremely hard thing to do, given head coach John Calipari's knack for bringing in minor headcases that display incredible basketball skills, but Liggins was able to do it.
He may not make a single All-Star game in his career, but I don't think he'll have to in order to be successful. He led Kentucky in steals and was third in three-point percentage last year. He's a prototypical off-the-bench contributor at the guard position.
The Orlando Magic are sure to have many offers come in for Dwight Howard and seem to always receive criticism for different moves they make. Liggins can provide a calming influence in the locker room.
That's part of why I see his underrated status as unwarranted. Furthermore, if Jason Richardson falters at the shooting guard positions, Liggins is more than capable of getting the ball into Howard and setting up for an open kick-out.
This pick deserved a standing ovation for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Andrew Goudelock from the College of Charleston ranked up there with Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker in scoring last season. He was fifth with 23.4 point per game.
Goudelock made 3.4 threes per game, second most of any national scorer in the top 40. He made an impressive 40 percent of them. He also regularly shoots well above 80 percent from the free-throw stripe.
With the Lakers' openness to trading small forward Ron Artest, the selection of Goudelock enables head coach Mike Brown to play Kobe Bryant at a more appropriate 3-position while also having a deadly shooter at the 2-position.
Goudelock received excellent coaching from Bobby Cremins in college. He clearly has the basketball IQ to be a major contributor for Los Angeles in the future.
I believe that if Kentucky center Josh Harrellson was not taken by the New Orleans Hornets in the second round, he would not have been taken at all.
After all, 7.6 points in 28.5 minutes per game is nothing to write home about.
But that selection reaffirmed by belief that professional scouts really know their stuff. Sure, they miss on some guys, but more often than not, they find all the players that are worthy of being found.
Josh Harrellson was underrated on his own college team for most of the season.
During the preseason Blue-White scrimmage, he racked up 26 rebounds to which head coach John Calipari remarked that either Kentucky is a terrible rebounding team or Harrellson had improved.
Harrellson took exception with the comment and tweeted something to the tune of "I can't get no respect!" He was punished with extra conditioning drills, but he continued to do them after the punishment as a part of his physical workout.
I like this guy. His ability to stand up for himself and accept the consequences made him better on and off the court.
After being traded to the New York Knicks, he should get defensive minutes playing behind Ronny Turiaf and will impress.
There is no doubt that NBA teams have underrated San Diego State product Kawhi Leonard.
First, he fell to the Indiana Pacers at 15 even though ESPN's Chad Ford (and I) had him in the top seven prospects.
Then, he was a part of a trade that sent both of the Pacers 2011 NBA draft picks plus another player to the San Antonio Spurs for George Hill. Spurs win again.
Now that Leonard is finally with a team that wants him, he will thrive. He's a combo small/power forward with athleticism oozing from his body. He's 6'7" and used his size to gain the advantage on his opponent on the perimeter.
With the aging Richard Jefferson not providing much spark from the small forward position, I see Leonard playing soon and playing hard for San Antonio.
The fact that the Spurs like him should also hint that he's a diamond in the rough. Recent draft picks DeJuan Blair and Hill have exceeded expectations.
That's why I was amazed to see so many teams pass him in the lottery, especially the Golden State Warriors at pick 11. They instead went with the great scorer Klay Thompson because they really need some help in that department...
Singleton not only is a great defender—he was the 2010 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and the 2011 runner-up—he is a strong, gritty competitor.
After suffering a broken foot on February 12, he missed less than a month and was back in time to lead his team to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
The Washington Wizards have a quality player at a position of need, a deadly combination.
Maurice Evans did an OK job at the small forward position for the Wizards after being traded from the Atlanta Hawks, but the addition of Singleton's defense will give head coach Flip Saunders a lot of flexibility that should help Singleton's career in Washington.
And now for the title character!
Iman Shumpert of Georgia Tech is perhaps the most underrated player in the 2011 NBA draft class, at least according to Spike Lee.
So what if he wasn't considered a top-notch scorer in college (even though he averaged 17.3 points per game)? He's a great defender, and that's exactly what the New York Knicks need.
Shumpert shot a lowly 40 percent from the field last year, but he can simply give the ball to Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire during those times when he might usually force a shot.
His 2.7 steals per game led the team and the ACC, and was good for eighth in the nation.
He was the only player in the top 10 that had a steal-to-foul ratio under one, which means he's one of the best at picking spots when he wants to snatch the ball.
Old Spike Lee needs to watch that ESPN 30 for 30 episode where his Knicks could've used someone with Shumpert's defensive skills to help shut down Reggie Miller in the playoffs.