Shumpert: A Defensive Mindset

Jonah Ballow
Knicks.com

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Imagining a Knicks lineup where the smallest player on the floor stands 6-foot-6 is an intriguing scenario heading into the 2011-12 season.

Iman Shumpert left jaws on the ground during the Chicago combine prior to the June NBA Draft with a 42 inch vertical leap, tremendous baseline-to-baseline speed, and an improved jumper. The former Georgia Tech junior is an athletic specimen who excelled above the rim and off the dribble, often destroying opponents in the transition game.

The electric athleticism from this 21-year old should provide a heavy dose of anticipation for his Madison Square Garden debut. However, Shumpert’s true impact could be on the defensive side of the floor, considering he averaged 2.87 steals at Georgia Tech, eighth-best in the NCAA last year.

Following his draft-night selection, Shumpert explained to media members how he established an aggressive defensive mindset from early age, “I grew up having three brothers and two older ones, and I hated to get scored on. In Chicago, it’s embarrassing to get scored on. When people score on you, you are the weak link and if I was going to play with my brothers and was going to get scored on I was going to be the weak link, so I just couldn’t get scored on. It’s just something I developed, having pride for not letting people score on me. As I got older, a bit more so, getting in passing lanes because I’m longer.”

Length is certainly a physical attribute that will assist Shumpert from a defensive standpoint. The Illinois native owns a 6’10 wingspan with long arms to pressure the ball carrier and chase down opponents for highlight reel blocks.

Unlike some rookies, Shumpert has a clear focus on defense and his skills will be a premium for this Knicks squad during the 2011-12 campaign and beyond.

“Yeah, I definitely need to play defense. Those other guys are veteran guys who score the ball. Sometimes you cannot score the ball and play defensive at the same time, so I’m the guy with young legs who can play defense,” Shumpert explained.

The size, strength, and versatility Shumpert offers on the hardwood floor will give head coach Mike D’Antoni plenty of flexibility to float him on the perimeter and play him at multiple positions. “I play point guard, shooting guard, I’m a basketball player and will do whatever they need me to do,” Shumpert emphatically stated. Offensively, Shumpert is no slouch after posting 17.3 points per game last year – a seven-point increase from 2009-10. Basketball fans who witnessed Shumpert’s play in the ACC watched a young man slice through defenses, shrug off perimeter defenders and reach the free throw line at a clip of 5.6 times per game. He also connected on 80 percent of those attempts.

As the No. 17 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Shumpert was considered one of the top defenders in the 2011 class with a huge offensive upside. Adding Shumpert to the mix with a talented roster should allow him to flourish and gain some necessary game experience in the league.

With the season just around the corner, Shumpert is ready to take center stage, “The coach, the history, the city, being able to learn from those veteran guys, Chauncey [Billups], Carmelo [Anthony], and Amar’e [Stoudemire. That opportunity just doesn’t come every day. For me to be in this position, I’m in all smiles.”
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