The Friday after the NBA Draft is a bit like the hangover from a reckless all-night party. Fans (and front offices, I’d bet) wake up, take a look around, palm their foreheads, and groan, “What did I DO last night? Where did THAT come from!? Who are these people in my home!?” With all the swapped picks and draft-night deals, players probably go through the same thing, waking up without a clear idea of who they are or where they live.
The Knicks, as it happened, had a relatively sober draft night, perhaps surprisingly so. With none of the big names slipping quite far enough, New York sat tight at the seventeenth slot and drafted Iman Shumpert of Georgia Tech. The Knicks then bought their way into the second round and took Josh Harrellson of Kentucky. You know who these guys are already. Now that the dust has settled, let’s soothe our draft hangovers and see how they might fit our Knicks.
The New York “war room” (actually a congregation of white guys in dress shirts. Oh wait … that’s probably what a real war room is) was reportedly split between Shumpert and projected lottery pick Chris Singleton last night, but went with the sleeper, not the slipper, at the behest of Mike D’Antoni. Why? Fit.
Shumpert and Singleton, at least on paper, have basic attributes in common. They’re talented, dedicated defenders who don’t have the offensive thing completely figured out quite yet. The crucial difference is that Singleton is bigger and fits most naturally at small forward, which, on the Knick depth chart, is Meloville, population: Melo. Shumpert isn’t that much smaller, but has the fleet feet to play guard in the NBA. The most important thing is that he can guard guards, which Singleton probably could not. If you recall the delight with which Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen violated the Knicks during the playoffs, you’ll agree that this was an area of the utmost need.
Now, the Knicks need guard help offensively as well, and the hope is that Shumpert can grow into a contributor at that end, possibly at two positions. The Knicks didn’t really have a reliable understudy for the injury-plagued Chauncey Billups last year. Toney Douglas is more of the bring-it-up-pass-it-off-cut-to-an-open-spot variety, and Anthony Carter is just too old for this shit. Iman doesn’t bring great point-guard numbers but is by all accounts a capable passer who may have just had too few targets and too long a leash at Tech, at least during his last season. One improvement that might open things up for him would be a tighter jump shot. His form appears to be decent, but he’s got all sorts of silly things going on with his feet and his release point that could be eliminated. This Knicks fan has a lot of faith in the New York coaching staff — namely shot wizard Phil Weber — to hone Shumpert’s stroke. That’d help Iman’s prospects as a two-guard while simultaneously opening things up for him as a ballhandler and passer, particularly at the top of New York’s beloved pick-and-roll.
Simply put, Shumpert could fit beautifully into a major hole for the Knicks. He might just need some sanding around the edges. Maybe a lot of sanding. Some have mentioned the possibility of Shumpert pushing Douglas out the door, but that doesn’t appear imminent. Ideally, the new guy learns to play point so that Douglas can settle comfortably into the shooting-guard spot and do what Toney Douglas do around the perimeter. Then they could cross-match and swarm however they please on defense. It’d be kind of awesome, actually.
As for the other guy? Josh Harrellson is by no means the next great big man, but there’s reason to believe he’ll stick with the Knicks. He might even get minutes. Jorts instantly becomes the biggest guy on the Knick roster, and the word on him is that he hustles his jorts off and fights for defensive position and rebounds. Again, take a short walk down memory land and recall Shawne Williams and Jared Jeffries defending the likes of Dwight Howard, and the fit becomes obvious. He’s not the most polished, and he definitely ain’t springy, but the Knicks probably would have settled for a six-foot-ten, 275-pound slab of whale meat. A functional human with that size who works hard and improved tremendously in his senior year? We’ll take it!
So, there it is. You may not have heard of these guys before the draft, but I think you’ll grow to like them both. Shumpert and Harrellson, particularly with a bit of sharpening, could fit quite nicely into the holey Knick depth chart. That’s cool!