Mike D'Antoni praises Iman Shumpert

Updated: June 24, 2011, 11:20 PM ET
By Jared Zwerling | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Coach Mike D'Antoni raved about Iman Shumpert's shutdown skills, going so far as to say the New York Knicks' first-round pick could stay in front of three of the best players in the world.

"He has the athletic ability to guard a Derrick Rose or a Dwyane Wade or a LeBron James," D'Antoni said Friday.

But defense alone didn't prompt New York to take the Georgia Tech guard with the 17th pick. Shumpert, a late arrival in the Knicks' draft picture, won over D'Antoni with a picture-perfect stroke when he worked out for the team at their training facility.

The Knicks had paid close attention to Chris Singleton, Marshon Brooks and Nikola Vucevic. Shumpert didn't draw a ton of interest until later on. The Knicks heard about his athleticism (a 42-inch vertical leap) and wingspan (nearly 7 feet long, impressive for a 6-foot-5 combo guard), but they knew his outside shot was suspect. Shumpert himself admitted that to them -- but a pre-draft workout at the team's training facility showed otherwise.

"He said he couldn't shoot," D'Antoni said, "but he came in and had almost a picture-perfect shot, and we think that can get a lot better.

"He had one of the best workouts that I've seen in a lot of years. He's a little bit of everything. He can play point, he can play the 2, he can guard some 3s. He's an exciting young man. His personality and his ability to work hard are big factors, and we're excited about having him."

Shumpert flew in from Chicago on Friday morning, ready to join a team that features All-Stars Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.

"Those guys being able to score the ball like that, I don't think they should have to play all the defense, too," Shumpert said. "The first thing I'm going to do is come in and defend people, take pressure off peoples' legs."

When the Knicks were on the clock, they had two intriguing prospects to choose from, Shumpert and Singleton. Both are athletic and defensive specialists, but D'Antoni said Shumpert stood out more because of his position.

"Singleton is more of a 3, 4," D'Antoni said, "and I think we have two pretty good players there.

"When it's kind of a toss-up, you look at the Knicks and what serves them better. We thought that a guy that could defend the 1, 2 and some 3 was better. That's hard to find."

Jared Zwerling is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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