It seemed a little bit overlooked last month when the New York Knicks signed Northwestern all-time leading scorer and 2012 Big Ten Conference scoring champion John Shurna to a non-guaranteed contract.
Given the Knicks lack of youth, it seemed at the time that the sharpshooter Shurna was a lock to head to the D-League.
But that might not be the case.
Shurna has impressed many during the first week of training camp and could force Mike Woodson into a very difficult decision.
Shurna went undrafted mostly because scouts viewed him as a liability defensively, but so far through camp he has shown the ability to compete defensively, often being assigned to Carmelo Anthony during 5-on-5 scrimmages and he hasn’t backed down, getting right up in his grill and even forcing a couple of turnovers which have led to transition scores.
In addition, Shurna has shown the athleticism to run the floor with the likes of Raymond Felton and has been able to finish on the wing by getting to the rim.
But while all of that has been a surprise, Shurna is known for his ability to shoot the rock and he does it very well, knocking down 44 percent of his attempts from behind the arc during his senior season.
So far Shurna has opened up plenty of eyes, but most notably those of Steve Novak, who gave a ringing endorsement of the youngster to ESPN’s Jared Zwerling.
“He’s done a great job at camp,” Novak said after practice on Friday. “He’s approached it the right way. He’s got a motor on him. He just moves, moves, moves, always trying to get open, always trying to wear the defense down and he shoots the ball so well. I’m obviously biased, but I feel like there’s a place for him somewhere. I hope this year with us. He’s going to be able to play for a long time.”
What makes Shurna an attractive option is his shooting ability. While the Knicks have experience and are deep on paper, the one area they are lacking is good perimeter shooting.
Other than Novak, who led the NBA a season ago by knocking down 47.2 percent of his attempts from behind the arc, the current Knicks roster doesn’t have a group of consistent long-range shooters and without a true post presence, this team will need to be able to consistently knock down open looks from the perimeter.
Looking at the current Knicks shooting percentages: Carmelo Anthony (.335 from behind the arc in 2012), J.R. Smith (.347), Ronnie Brewer (.275), Raymond Felton (.305), Jason Kidd (.375),and Iman Shumpert (.306), what they don’t have is many consistent threats from downtown.
The Knicks finished 21st in the NBA a season ago in three-point shooting and that was with the top shooter in the league. Adding another guy who can shoot the rock is a good thing.
Of course there’s also the issue of a veteran team and the lack of quality minutes for Shurna. That alone may make the decision to send him to the D-League to get more consistent minute an easier one.
But one thing is for sure and that’s the fact that Shurna is making his case for the final guaranteed contract (the other is presumed to go to Rasheed Wallace). If he keeps opening eyes, Shurna is going to make Woodson’s decision an awfully difficult one.
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