Another year, another unconventional draft pick in New York. This time around the Knicks chose to go with Georgia Tech combo guard Iman Shumpert, a guy who until just a couple weeks ago wasn’t on anybody’s first round radar. Last night my immediate reaction was to compare Shumpert with Renaldo Balkman, but after cooling down for a couple hours, it’s conclusive that things look a little rosier now than they did back then. Hopefully.
Here’s the shimmy on Shumpert: He’s a physical marvel, drawing complimentary comparisons as a towering Rajon Rondo. (According to DraftExpress.com, his max vertical leap was measured at an astonishing 42 inches.) At 6’6″ he’s extremely tall for a point guard, but can use his length to make the lives of opposing ball handlers a living hell. It’s the most logical reason he was drafted, and in that sense I like the pick. Shooting and rebounding were both huge needs for this team heading into last night, but their atrocious perimeter defense can’t be overlooked. (With that being said, I’d still rather write about Kenneth Faried or Chris Singleton, but oh well, trying to be positive.) His height also makes Shumpert versatile, able to play either guard position if need be (the Knicks could use some help at both spots). It’ll be interesting to see how D’Antoni chooses to deploy Shumpert in his rotation, but regardless, the pick won’t make Toney Douglas or Landry Fields the happiest campers; one of them’s likely getting the boot.
Shumpert averaged 17.3 points per game last year, but shot just 28 percent from beyond the arc. That’s not the best news I’ve heard all day, but this is: In 32 minutes a game Shumpert averaged 2.7 steals. It’s recognition by the Knicks front office that while further improving the offense is super duper, plugging up some of the defensive holes should be more of a priority if the team wants to win a playoff series. Shumpert will do that.
I know I just said this was going to be an optimistic article, but what I can’t ignore is the Knicks stubborn indifference towards reality. They badly needed rebounding. One of the best rebounders college basketball’s produced in about 10 years was there for the taking. So here’s where 1+1 isn’t equalling 2. Why isn’t Kenneth Faried a Knick? Why draft someone who plays the exact same position as last year’s breakout rookie? WHY? Seriously though, this isn’t an overreaction to one draft choice. This is pent up from Jordan Hill, back when the Knicks could’ve used a dynamic point guard like Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, or Jeff Teague, and instead chose a combustible, extremely limited forward. This is taking Balkman one pick before Rajon Rondo.
I don’t know. I just don’t get it. Like Spike said minutes after the pick was announced, we have no choice but to go with the flow. Booing and yelling won’t magically turn Iman Shumpert into someone we’re more familiar with. The pick was made, and we as fans must now embrace him. Unlike the Knicks, who had quite a few still hanging on the board, it’s our only option.
Their final grade? A C-. The Knicks didn’t aggressively move up in the draft, but you can’t blame them. There really wasn’t anybody they fell in love with and they didn’t overreach for size just because it’s size, which is good. (They also had nothing substantial to offer.) In the second round, they bought Josh Harrellson, a 6’10” center from Kentucky who surprised a lot of people with a breakout season of sorts in his senior season. But while I’m watching Faried tear at least 10 basketballs a night from the backboard in Denver, I can’t help but wonder why the Knicks won’t act accordingly.