NBA Draft Report Card: Grading the New York Knicks at the 2011 NBA Draft

The Jimmer Fredette to New York craze is finally over.

After seeing the Sacramento Kings acquire the number ten overall pick in the NBA Draft, only to select Fredette, Knicks’ brass went to work. With the hype of Fredette joining the Knicks officially gone, officials were able to draft according to some sore needs for the team’s roster.

Defense wins championships. It’s been proven again and again. Whether the solution for defense in New York is a defensive-minded assistant or more defensive-focused players, Donnie Walsh made sure that in one of his final days as Knicks President he did something to address the need.

The Knicks selected Iman Shumpert out of Georgia Tech with their first round selection, the 17thoverall pick. While Shumpert may not possess the star power nor the personality that Fredette or a guy like Kemba Walker does, he nevertheless still fills a void.

At 6’6”, Shumpert has the ability to guard anyone from a point guard to a small forward. He reportedly even shut down Fredette in their one-on-one pre-draft workout. The fact of the matter is, while the Knicks could have used a sharpshooter to complement the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the team certainly has enough scoring.

That’s the good news—with STAT, Melo, and Chauncey Billups all able to score the basketball with ease, Shumpert’s style of play should provide a nice balance. Walsh and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni both praised Shumpert’s athleticism and believe he could be a contributor right away. Playing him alongside Billups would not only give the Knicks a bit of height, but also take the pressure of playing the role of a more traditional point guard in D’Antoni’s offense off of Billups.

Not to be overlooked, Walsh asserted that Shumpert’s shooting touch was better than most people perceive.

Shumpert fills voids for his new team. That’s the main benefit. Whether or not he was a big name at the draft is irrelevant. For those down in the dumps about the pick, think back to last year’s selection of Landry Fields, who wasn’t even highlighted on ESPN Chad Ford’s Top 100 prospect board.

It’s clear that with his highest-regarded pick ever in Reggie Miller (for which he got booed for making), and solid selections during his Knicks tenure in Fields and Toney Douglas, Walsh knows what he’s doing on the draft front. This Knicks team is officially his creation, and he was simply filling one last hole that he saw before stepping into a consulting role next month.

Instead of trading for a pick later in the first round, the Knicks instead purchased the #45 overall selection, which was used to select Josh Harrellson out of Kentucky, from the Hornets. He may be a bit of a project, so to speak, but more often than not, that’s what second round picks turn out to be.

At 6’10”, 275 pounds, Harrellson is huge, which in itself fills another void for the Knicks. He’s someone who can play quite physically down low. Following a solid NCAA tournament performance, he certainly appears worth the small risk. While he may not make an impact so soon, Harrellson could see time with the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League (which the Knicks recently took over) to develop and let the Knicks take a more thorough look at what he can do.

For those doubting how Harrellson can ultimately help the Knicks in the long run, keep an eye on Jerome Jordan, the team’s big man prospect from last year’s draft. He spent time in Serbia this past season and is now primed to likely help the Knicks during the upcoming season.

A word to the wise is to stay on the positive side when considering these selections by the Knicks. There may have been players that appeared better still available on the big board, but the fact of the matter is, a prospect’s college skills do not always translate. The Knicks are confident in their two new prospects’ abilities and even more confident that they can felt develop them into key contributors.

With the team’s foundation clearly in place, it’s all about finding the right pieces to surround the Knicks’ stars. They just may have done that in this draft.

Overall Knicks’ 2011 NBA Draft Report Card Grade: B-ort Card Grade: B-

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