By Taylor Armosino, Knicks fan since '03
Iman Shumpert PG, Georgia Tech
Drafted: 2011 by the New York Knicks, 1st Round (17th overall)
Coming out of Georgia Tech, Iman Shumpert's game still had some questions on the offensive end of the floor: Could he handle the ball and pass like a point guard? Would be develop a reliable jumpshot after shooting 28% from three his junior year?
The defensive upside was obvious. Shumpert had off-the-charts athleticism and a pride in playing defense that few young players possess. His 36.5' vertical leap at the draft combine was the best mark since 2007. Combine that with his 6'5 frame and it was obvious that Shumpert had serious potential as a lockdown defender.
The Knicks were drafting 17th overall in that year's NBA Draft. They were fresh off the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade and looking for defensive role players that would fit their team. This was pre-Tyson Chandler and the team was still seeking a defensive identity. The Knicks finished the 2010 season with the 21st ranked defense in basketball, allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions.They needed to find an impact defensive player somewhere, and ended up with two that offseason: free agent center Tyson Chandler and a 6'5 rookie guard from Georgia Tech.
While it wasn't seen as an overly strong draft at the top, the 2011 NBA Draft featured some interesting prospects in the mid-to-late first round. In the mix for the Knicks at 17 were guys like: Nikola Vucevic, Kawhi Leonard, the Morris brothers, Jimmer Fredette, Kenneth Faried, Chris Singleton, MarShon Brooks and Tobias Harris. Vucevic, Leonard, the Morris' and Fredette all were drafted before the Knicks pick, obviously taking them out of the conversation. Shumpert seemed like the best fit for the Knicks at the time, and he's proven to be just that.
The Knicks took Shumpert at 17, which has proven to be a good move. Through two seasons, the guard from Georgia Tech has been impressive. He's found a niche as a "3 and D" off-guard in the Knicks' wide-open offense. We saw across-the-board improvement from Shumpert on offense from year one to year two. He shot the ball more efficiently, going from a .446 eFG% to .489 and turned the ball over less (16% TOV to 11.1%). He also grabbed more rebounds (6.3 TRB% to 8.0), and improved his player efficiency rating from 10.8 to 11.7.
He really took a step forward as a shooter this season, fitting in perfectly to the Knicks' 3-happy offense. The defense is already there, and Shumpert hit 40.2% of his threes last season. He was even better in the postseason, hitting 42.9% and putting on a virtuoso performance to lead a spirited Knicks comeback in Game 6 against Indiana.
Shump has experience playing some point guard and will continue to work on his off-the-dribble game. Because he's such a lethal 3-point threat, opposing teams will now close out on him harder than ever before. This will open up the opportunity for him to blow by closing defenders to either shoot, get to the rim, or create for somebody else.
In retrospect, the Knicks selection of Iman Shumpert with the 17th pick still looks like the right one. After two seasons, he's made great strides and still has plenty of room to grow.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images