When this pick happened, I overreacted. A lot. And to be completely honest, I’m still not happy with it. But I fall in rank behind Spike. This is what the Knicks did, and despite the holes that I believe Shumpert has in his game, it’s not completely fair to call this pick a complete bust, because believe it or not, there are reasons that the Knicks have earned “B” and “B-“ grades from well-respected NBA writers this morning.
Why I didn’t like it:
Because I watched Shumpert play several times, and he wasn’t that good. It sounds brutally honest, and it is. The same way that Singleton stood out because of his physicality and command of the court, Shumpert kind of blended into the background.
Looking at the only numbers that are available, he’s an offensive liability, and his weaknesses are magnified in D’Antoni’s offense. At Tech, his best season shooting the three was 2009, and it was at an unsatisfactory 33% clip. Last year, he dropped below the 30% line, which is the point where coaches need to go up to you and just say “Hey, you should just stop shooting.”
The reason he was drafted is akin to a kid who performed poorly in high school but scored extremely highly on the SAT. I do not like the combine, and I do not like individual workouts. As far as I am concerned, they should be among the last things considered when figuring out a draft board.
Plenty of people at the combine can run fast and jump high, and most can even can their shots, but it doesn’t correlate favorably with how they’ll perform in the NBA. Everything is a drill, the gyms are full of scouts who are paid to be vigilant and jot down notes, not to create a game atmosphere. The level of competition that the players face from their fellow draftees is well below that of which they will face on 90% of nights during the season.
Every year some team is seduced by a combine warrior, the most recent example of which came from my alma mater (Darrius Heyward-Bey), and I would estimate that 90% of the time that player fails to live up to their lofty draft status, or flames out completely at the sight of a live game and is out of the game within a few years.
From the comments I’ve heard so far, Shumpert will be groomed at the point, where he split time in college. As opposed to drafting a point guard with better instincts than Douglas, the Knicks drafted another 2, except this time he’s not trapped in a 1’s body. Shumpert only averaged 3.7 assists per game, with an exceedingly average 1.5 A/TO ratio. Out of the top 10 guards in the ACC in Assists per game, that assist to turnover ratio was only better than Malcolm Delaney’s pathetic 1.30.
Lastly, Shumpert will need to beat out Fields for the starting SG spot to justify his relevance on this team. If he comes off the bench to occasionally spell Fields, then the pick could and should have been used on Singleton. Singleton is a better and more versatile defender, with a more refined offensive game. So unless the Knicks are able to fill major minutes with him, the pick can be deemed a tactical mistake.
How it could work:
My biggest gripe with the pick was that I thought the Knicks could have very easily traded back at least 5-10 spots, and still made the very same selection. Apparently I wasn’t correct. Shumpert was a consensus 13-20 pick in this draft, which is amazing considering his college resume was less than stellar. Realistically, people exponentially smarter and more well connected than myself believe Shumpert had several suitors in the middle of the first round. However misguided I believe those assessments are, there’s no denying the truth: Shumpert was a legitimate first round pick in this draft.
I still do believe that the Knicks overdrafted Shumpert, and from the sound of it everyone (the crowd, Spike Lee, the ESPN booth) agreed with me. But, the case for Shumpert is that he was considered by many to be the best athlete in this draft. Assist to turnover ratio and shooting percentage aside, Shumpert hits every point on the checklist for physical traits you want from a professional basketball player.
He’s a rangy 6’6”, which enables him to play both guard spots. He’s a muscular 225 pounds, so he won’t have to waste time bulking up or slimming down. And his all of his measureables put him in rarified air among not only his peers in the draft (his standing vertical leap of 36” was the highest at the combine), but also with anyone else in the league (his insane 42” running vertical leap is just .5 inch shy of what Vince Carter’s was at the combine). The cherry on top is the 6’10” wingspan which is what allowed him to be a menace in the passing lanes (8th in the NCAA in steals per game last year). If you were create an ideal frame for a basketball player, Shumpert would be pretty damn close to what you came up with.
I don’t put all of the blame on Shumpert for his low shooting percentage and high turnover rate. Except for the one year where he had the benefit of a Lawal-Favors frontcourt, he played on some very bad Georgia Tech teams for a coach (Paul Hewitt) who hasn’t been even league-average since 2003.
Some of those bad shots he took were out of necessity because the other scoring options were Zach Peacock, and Glen Rice Jr. (there is a reason there aren’t YouTube highlights of these guys). Hewitt has always been a questionable tactician, who has had three winning seasons since 2003 despite a bevy of NBA talent.
Articles on Shumpert are heavy on unappealing terms like “upside” and “prospect”, and those definitions are unfortunately accurate. He certainly carries a lot of “if’s” with him, as in “If he can fix his jumper, then…” or “if he can learn the offense, then…” The one that covers everything is that “If Shumpert can be the exception to the rule of great combine guys who flame out, then…”.
THEN we can start talking about his ceiling, which is only constrained by how smart he is from tip-off to buzzer. Judging by those outstanding measurements, there is nothing that he physically won’t be able to do on a basketball court. Because this team already has two volume scorers, it means that Shumpert doesn’t need to be the second coming of Kobe Bryant offensively.
He just needs to improve his jumper to somewhere near league average, and be a good custodian for the offense when Chauncey takes his breaks. I don’t believe the front office would have taken this chance if he didn’t a) interview very well and b) respond well to the coaching they administered at workouts.
If everything comes up Milhouse for the Knicks, Shumpert will shoulder the same scoring load that Fields did, while providing significantly superior perimeter defense. If I were to idealize Shumpert, his build and resume are reminiscent of Rajon Rondo coming out of college, and their talents are very similar. At worst, he’ll be a spot defender off the bench capable of frustrating a team’s first or second option, and good for a “WOW” play every two games because of those hops. Kind of like Trevor Ariza back when he played for the Knicks.
Obviously, I want Shumpert to be good, and if he shows up for the season (whenever it starts) with a better jumper and improved judgment on his passes, that’s what I want to see. Amar’e is behind him 100%, while Melo seemed to show some more trepidation (he wanted Shelby), hopefully they can help him reach his very high ceiling from his exceedingly average floor.