Iman Shumpert defied incredibly long odds last season, and it had nothing to do with his comeback following major knee surgery.
The bigger accomplishment, at least from a historical perspective, is that Shumpert started a playoff game that the Knicks won last season. In fact, the Knicks won six playoff games with Shumpert, a former first-round pick, in the starting lineup.
That may not seem too impressive until you consider that the last player selected in the first round by the Knicks to start a playoff win for the club was none other than Charlie Ward, the 26th selection of the 1994 draft.
Remember that on Thursday when it comes time for the Knicks — assuming they keep their first-rounder — to use the 24th pick . Based solely on history, that player has a better chance of being traded (See Michael Sweetney and Danilo Gallinari) before ever reaching his full potential with the club or, at the very least, making a legitimate impact.
For whatever reason — poor selections and an impatient front office — the Knicks don’t draft well. They certainly trail in the area of developing players, especially when compared to clubs such as San Antonio and Indiana.
The Knicks would rather throw money at established free agents than focus on player development, an organizational philosophy that, quite frankly, has failed. Even former Knicks president Isiah Thomas admitted last week that the Knicks need to steal a page from the Spurs’ book and develop from within.
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During his three seasons at UNC, Reggie Bullock shows improvement.
Whether the Knicks find a serviceable player with the 24th pick remains to be seen. Shumpert was the 17th pick two years ago and his selection was Donnie Walsh’s last official act as Knicks president. It was a nice going-away present to the club since Shumpert, although erratic offensively, is a menace defensively and the type of player all contenders need. His name surfaced in trade talks last February, but the Knicks wisely hung on to the talented swingman.
The Knicks have had decent first-round picks over the past decade, but Gallinari and Wilson Chandler were traded to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony deal. David Lee left via free agency once the Knicks signed Amar’e Stoudemire. Channing Frye was traded to Portland in the Zach Randolph deal. Jordan Hill was dealt to Houston for Tracy McGrady’s expiring contract while Sweetney was a bust.
The real season for the Knicks begins on July 1, when the club can begin contacting free agents. They want to re-sign J.R. Smith and have already made qualifying offers to Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland, which makes them restricted free agents.
No matter whom the Knicks select on Thursday they will likely say that they are thrilled to have said player and that they had said player pegged for the lottery. It sounds nice, but history tells the real truth.
THREE FOR THE KNICKS
Ricky Ledo, SG, Providence, 6-6, 197 pounds: Only 20, has the chance to be a big-time scorer. He’s one of the draft’s bigger mysteries because he never played a game for the Friars after being declared academically ineligible.
Reggie Bullock, SF, North Carolina, 6-7, 200 pounds: Athletic wing man. He showed improvement each of his three seasons at UNC. More of a finesse player than a banger.
Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas, 6-9, 235 pounds: Mitchell was a projected lottery pick but returned to school and had a poor season. High-turnover guy, but his athleticism is off the charts, and Knicks need size to compete with Pacers and Bulls.