College Basketball Nation: Iman Shumpert

OK, NBA draft. I give up. You win.

For all the faux-confusion I frequently direct at the NBA draft -- especially around Seebpomd time -- typically, I get where NBA general managers are coming from. (Except Timberwolves GM David Kahn. Kahhhnnn!) You're drafting players on potential. You're filling needs. You're stockpiling for the future. All of these things aren't mutually exclusive to selecting productive, successful college basketball players, but those interests don't always align. I get it.

Still, sometimes you look at a mock draft board, and you see Iman Shumpert being projected as a first-round pick ... and the cognitive dissonance is enough to make you dizzy. What on Earth is going on here? Iman Shumpert? Are we talking about the same player?

As of this writing -- which is just a few hours before what should be a wild and wacky NBA draft; no one really seems to know what's going to happen -- ESPN Insider Chad Ford's mock draft Insider lists Shumpert as the No. 20 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, a pick that belongs to the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Kahhhhnnn!)

That's momentous news for Shumpert, who seemed certain to go low in the second round (or even undrafted) when he decided to forgo his senior season at Georgia Tech and enter the draft this spring. It's also difficult to fathom. Ford's reasoning (read: the reasoning of the NBA general managers who Chad talks to about these things) goes like this:
The Wolves added some serious offensive pop with the arrival of Ricky Rubio and, in this mock, Derrick Williams. Shumpert would give them a major defensive presence in their backcourt. While he's not the most offensively gifted player in the draft, his ability to guard both backcourt positions, combined with his elite athleticism, make him an interesting choice at No. 20.

I suppose I can understand that reasoning. Shumpert is a solid, versatile defender. Fair enough.

Still, there are a handful of other solid, versatile defenders out there, and they happen to be players -- Nolan Smith, Shelvin Mack, Tyler Honeycutt, Jimmy Butler, E'Twaun Moore, even DeAndre Liggins! -- who are also a) able to play offense and b) likely to be available in the second round, via trade, or as undrafted free agents. All of those players experienced much greater levels of success in college than Shumpert did. All of them actively made their teams better, which is not something we could always say for the Georgia Tech guard.

In his defense, Shumpert did improve during his junior season, and his 25.7 percent assist rate was encouraging. But it's hard not to feel like Shumpert is the beneficiary of that age-old draft red herring: workouts. Shumpert tested well at the draft combine. Scouts were impressed by his athleticism in individual sessions. "Hey, he jumps higher than we thought. Maybe he's not so bad after all!"

The problem -- and college hoops fans already know this -- is that Shumpert has always been a great athlete. He's always "tested well." Between the lines, though, he's never played up to potential. He's never shot the ball well. He's never been an effective distributor. With Shumpert at the helm -- and this isn't entirely his fault; Paul Hewitt shares this blame, too -- Georgia Tech's offense has often looked downright lost.

At the risk of sounding like an old, stodgy baseball writer, winning does matter. Shumpert's career record at Georgia Tech? 48-50. Twenty-three of those wins came in 2010, when Derrick Favors, last year's No. 3 overall pick, patrolled the paint next to 2010 second round pick Gani Lawal. And the Yellow Jackets were still pretty mediocre.

Anyway, this isn't meant to pick on Shumpert. Honestly, if he goes first round tonight, good for him. No, this post is for the NBA scouts and general managers who overlook three years of reliable data and game footage and hastily ignore it for the chance to give an elite athlete a guaranteed first-round contract. It's as valid here as it is when a team selects a foreign prospect thanks to a few exciting shots over the outstretched arms of steel folding chairs. Yes, this is a weak draft, and yes, there's something to be said for filling a need ... but really? Iman Shumpert? A first round pick?

Somebody hold me. The NBA draft is always wild, and the Timberwolves are the Timberwolves (Kahhhhhnn!) but if Shumpert is a first round pick, then tonight can't possibly be anything less than totally insane. Frankly, I can't wait.

Final: Georgia Tech 69, Maryland 64

March, 12, 2010
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Well, that wasn't dull. Quick thoughts from Georgia Tech 69 Maryland 64.

  • Georgia Tech led by 19 in the first half and 16 at halftime. Yet it had to hang on for dear life to hold off the Terrapins. Maryland never took the lead in the second half or got the game tied, but it sure came close. The game was basically nip-and-tuck for the final 12 minutes.
  • We almost had a replay of the thrilling finish between these two in College Park last month. In that one, Cliff Tucker made a game-winning three at the buzzer for a Maryland victory. This time, Greivis Vasquez went up for a tying three in the final 10 seconds, but had the ball poked away by Iman Shumpert. Vasquez then committed an intentional foul keeping Shumpert from taking the loose ball in for a layup, and the game was won.
  • We now have a No. 12 seed (Miami) and No. 7 seed (the Yellow Jackets) in the semifinals. If 11th-seeded North Carolina State wins the nightcap, this tournament will have officially barged into the silly zone.
  • The Jackets had plenty of doubts on the way to winning this game after nearly blowing the big lead, but have erased all doubts about being in the Big Dance.
  • Tech made 8 of 12 3s ... but only 13 of 27 free throws.

Half: North Carolina 34, Georgia Tech 24

March, 11, 2010
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Some halftime thoughts:

We’re halfway to our third straight upset in the ACC tournament first round. The 10th-seeded Tar Heels are outscrapping the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets, following a trend started by No. 9 Virginia (which beat No. 8 Boston College) and continued by No. 12 Miami (which beat No. 5 Wake Forest).

What the Tar Heels lacked in elegance that half, they made up for in effort. After falling behind 13-7, they went on a 17-0 run that was spurred by an assault on the offensive glass. Carolina outrebounded the Jackets 26-18 for the half behind an energetic half from John Henson (four rebounds), Tyler Zeller (five) and Deon Thompson (five).

In the first half, Georgia Tech got another in a series of sketchy performances from its backcourt. Brian Oliver, Iman Shumpert and Mfon Udofia were a combined 0-for-9 from the field, and Tech was 2-of-11 from 3-point range.

Tech’s big men, Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal, need more shots. They got a combined six in the first half, though they did get to the foul line for eight of Tech’s nine free throws in the half.

There are thousands of empty seats in the Greensboro Coliseum, a solid indicator that the Carolina fans have largely given up this team. Those seats normally would be filled with powder blue.

UNC goes down again

January, 31, 2010
A 15-point loss at home to Virginia has the defending national champions reeling, with North Carolina having lost five of its past six games.

As Robbi Pickeral notes in the Charlotte Observer, the Tar Heels aren't stopping anyone right now.

Cavs sophomore Sylven Landesberg joined what it quickly becoming an "I-lit-up-Carolina" club, scoring 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting. He joins five other perimeter starters in the league who have scored at least 19 against UNC this season: Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney (26 points), Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert (30), Clemson's Demontez Stitt (20), Wake Forest's Ishmael Smith (20) and N.C. State's Javi Gonzalez (19).

Gottlieb on GT's upset of Duke

January, 9, 2010
Some thoughts from Georgia Tech's upset of Duke:

Few teams have the inside talent of Georgia Tech. That tandem of Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors proved to be too tough for Duke. For Tech, this win was huge. Plenty of people jumped off the bandwagon after the Yellow Jackets lost to Georgia in Athens. Newsflash: Georgia Tech ALWAYS loses to Georgia in Athens. Even Lethal Weapon Three (the 1990 Final Four team) lost there.

Bobby Cremins never won in Athens, so it was not as bad a loss as some would make you believe. The big key for Georgia Tech was that it used Lawal extensively late in the game. At times the Tech guards have been selfish in clutch situations. In this case, Lawal was the focal point of the offense, which is the right thing to do -- Iman Shumpert is kind of just "another guy" and Derrick Favors rarely sees the ball at the block.

Tech got some huge free throws from freshman Mfon Udofia and "only" turned it over 15 times. It's a good start for the Yellow Jackets as we continue to search for a consistent challenger to Duke for the conference title.

Speaking of the Blue Devils, Jon Scheyer continues to seemingly do everything right while Kyle Singler struggles. Tech used longer, bigger defenders on Scheyer and that slowed him some, but he still went for 25. Meanwhile, Singler seems to be a little uncomfortable on the perimeter still as his passing is just OK and he does not have the first step to create space for himself. The result is a lot of contested jumpers off stepback moves and the 2-for-13 shooting speaks for itself.

In terms of professional prospects Scheyer is probably not an NBA player, but his Jewish faith allows him to get an Israeli passport and he would be one of the most coveted players EVER for a team like Maccabi Tel Aviv. Singler on the other hand -- and I love his overall offensive repertoire -- is kind of a tweener, but he has 20 more games to show improved guard play. Nolan Smith tweaked his ankle today. The Devils are not deep in the backcourt, so an injury would be problematic. By the way, Duke has now lost five of its last seven conference road games and are 0-2 overall on the road this season.

The Blue Devils are still very solid, but they do not have any legit inside scoring with Singler on the wing and they cannot have one of their big three have a bad game offensively if they want to win on the road.