PLAYER: Iman Shumpert
SCHOOL: Georgia Tech
POSITION: Point guard
WHAT IT MEANS: Shumpert stole the show at the NBA draft combine in Chicago with his freakish athleticism -- his 36.5-inch standing vertical leap was the highest recorded since 2007 -- and he'll have to do the same in New York. That's because Knicks fans at the Prudential Center, and probably many more watching from home, were stunned with the pick. Many boos filled the arena after the team's front office passed over their prediction, defensive specialist Chris Singleton out of Florida State, who was available at No. 17. Even Spike Lee, who was in attendance in the arena, looked perplexed -- but he did offer some optimism by telling a reporter, "Well, we did draft Landry Fields." Looking back at the team's three previous No. 17 picks (forward Brian Generalovich from 1964, forward Phil Jackson from 1967 -- yes, that Phil Jackson -- guard Mike Price from 1970 and center Jerrod Mustaf from 1990), Shumpert has the chance to be easily the best of the bunch.
HOW HE FITS IN: As Chauncey Billups' back-up, which will allow Toney Douglas to continue to flourish as the Knicks' version of Jason Terry -- a shooter and scorer off the bench. You may look at Shumpert's 3.5 assists per game from last season at Georgia Tech and find fault there, but he had no other impact scoring teammate. Shumpert is a more than capable passer and ball-handler, and he's a solid defender, which is something the Knicks can always use at any position. Another plus is Shumpert's 6-6 size, and he can be used in various lineups.
PROJECTED IMPACT: Not right away. He needs to improve his shot selection and learn to play within a halfcourt set. But, as we all know, Mike D'Antoni likes to push the ball, and Shumpert will be a valuable piece in the team's up-tempo game. Most importantly, Shumpert's physical tools and defensive ability -- did I mention his nearly 7-foot wingspan? -- will help the Knicks contain the most dangerous position in the game today -- the point guard. He'll be able to pick at passing lanes and give the team opportunities to control the ball and tempo in transition, where Shumpert is a terror. Amare Stoudemire is aware of Shumpert's shut-down skills as well. After the pick, STAT tweeted, "Welcome to the team Iman Shumpert. Can't wait to get started to become a better Defensive team. Let's go."
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