Commentary

Knicks stuck in the middle with boos

Inept, indeed: Team deserved jeers for drafting Iman Shumpert over Chris Singleton

Updated: June 24, 2011, 10:29 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

At first glance, I thought the New York Knicks had a good night. In Iman Shumpert, they drafted a kid with size, the ability to play both guard positions and, judging by his history, the will to play defense -- thank the good Lord!

The thought was that this is exactly what a team ranked 28th in league defense would need. It's exactly what a team surrendering 105.7 points per game should draft. It's precisely what New York needs as the team tries to become a legitimate championship contender.

Then at second glance, I began feeling perplexed and furious again over the Knicks' latest draft-day move.

Did Donnie Walsh ever see Shumpert play? Or did he totally depend on his scouts? Did Mike D'Antoni make this decision to draft Shumpert or was his voice muted in the final analysis? While these questions may appear a bit too probing, too judgmental, these are the Knicks we're talking about here. A franchise draped, at least occasionally, with "Inept" as its middle name.

Chris Singleton
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty ImagesChris Singleton will wear a Wizards uniform. He would've looked better in a Knicks shade of blue.

Once realizing they actually passed up Chris Singleton, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward deemed capable of defending at least three positions on the floor, who finished his last two seasons at Florida State on the All-Defensive team, forgive me for believing the Knicks actually lived up to their middle name.

As usual!

After making the pick, here's what outgoing president Walsh told reporters, following boos from some in the crowd at the Prudential Center:

"I think [Shumpert's] future is well ahead of him. He's a good player right now. He's got a very good upside. I kinda came into this league [as president of the Pacers] with everybody booing me when I took Chuck Person, who was rookie of the year. And Reggie Miller the next year. And I'm going out with everybody booing me. That's a good sign."

Such touching humility, wouldn't you say?

We won't get into the fact many of the folks booing, who Walsh directed his comments at, weren't even born when he drafted Person or Miller. Nor will we visit Walsh's venture into another stratosphere, mentioning Shumpert in the same breath with Miller.

Instead, we'll focus on Shumpert being four inches shorter, 20 pounds lighter and not nearly as long or as strong as Singleton. Nor is he considered a better defensive option when you talk about going up against some of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference -- the ones the Knicks paid Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony nearly $200 million to beat, eventually.

"We like our pick," Walsh said.

Yeah! That's part of the problem.

Walsh liked it when the Knicks picked Jordan Hill No. 8 overall in 2009, ahead of Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson, knowing they needed a point guard. He liked it when they picked Danilo Gallinari in 2008, too, ahead of Brook Lopez, knowing the Knicks needed a center.

Whether we're supposed to believe in Walsh now, even as he's exiting the Knicks, is only half the point. The other half involves the question: Where do the Knicks go from here?

It's a legitimate question when you're yielding 47.2 percent shooting from the field to opponents (26th in the league); when you're 26th in the league in points allowed in the paint (45.4 ppg); when you're 25th in the league in 3-pointers allowed.

With numbers such as that, you're in desperate need of a Dennis Rodman-type. Someone with energy, with a reputation of a stopper no matter where you put him.

"We like Chris," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said when asked about nabbing Singleton at No. 18. "We like his energy, enthusiasm and competitiveness. We thought he was one of the best defensive perimeter players in college basketball last year. He's big. He's strong. He's long and he's very active. He can guard multiple positions. We didn't think he'd be there at 18, but we're glad he was."

Based on information from other scouts, there's no doubt Grunfeld should feel that way. Some are saying he got the steal of the draft. Despite all the good things we're hearing about Shumpert today -- about his great body, his athleticism, his ability to defend -- there's still a sickening thought when you hear Grunfeld's comments on Singleton.

Following the draft, numerous NBA scouts said Shumpert still hasn't shown he's a true point guard. A couple even said they had him falling to the second round.

If that's true, where does that leave the Knicks?

Don't bother answering that question right now.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE

MORE NBA HEADLINES