(Long Island, N.Y.) Making the playoffs was all well and good, but the New York Knicks have their eyes set on something a little richer than that. But even the additions of superstar players like Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony was not enough.
No, the team may have picked up a lot on offense, but their defense left a lot to be desired. This group was certainly not one to be mistaken for the Knicks of the 1990s. So Donnie Walsh did what he felt was right in his last act as President, Basketball Operations.
With the 17th pick in the first round of the NBA Draft, he chose Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert. At 6’4″, 215-pound, he was known for his defense first and that was what made him attractive to the Knicks.
“We are pleased to add Iman to the Knicks,” said Walsh, who is stepping down from the day-to-day operations due to his health and age. “He is a tremendous athlete, with an incredible work ethic. Offensively, he can play both backcourt spots and defend three different positions.”
Last season, the Knicks finished with Chauncey Billups playing the one and Landry Fields at the two. Shumpert will have the opportunity to get minutes backing up both and his addition may result in Toney Douglas becoming trade bait. In two seasons since leaving Florida State, Douglas has averaged 9.8 points and 2.6 assists per game. On the other side of the ball, he averaged 2.6 rebounds and 1 steal per game. This is the area where Shumpert can distance himself from players like Douglas.
As a junior during the 2010-11 campaign, Shumpert averaged 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game for Georgia Tech. That last category was good enough for sixth in the entire nation. Shumpert was honored with selections to the All-ACC Second team and All-ACC Defensive Team.
“We are very excited to have Iman,” Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He is one of the better athletes in this draft who can play multiple positions. He will fit in nicely with what we are doing here, defensively and offensively.”
There was a time when the Knicks were such an effective defensive unit that the NBA instituted the hand-check rule because of them. Players like Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason played the game in a bruising Eastern Conference style that is a stark contrast from the run-and-gun look out west. D’Antoni plays a run-oriented offense and is known as the type of coach who is one-dimensional from his days in Phoenix and now New York. Perhaps the addition of Shumpert can be the first move to try and alter that somewhat.
In their first round series versus Boston, the Celtics were able to take advantage of second opportunities and made the most of them. Kevin Garnett hurt them in all facets of the game and playing a tougher defense is going to be a must if the Knicks intend on winning a championship one of these years.