Iman Shumpert caught Donnie Walsh's eye at the NBA Combine in Chicago when the 6-6 guard from Georgia Tech with telescoping arms gave Jimmer Fredette all he could handle.
"It's definitely something I pride myself on," Shumpert said of his defense after his workout with the Knicks on Thursday at the MSG Training Center. "I wouldn't say it's my strength -- I'd say my strength is being able to do a lot of different things. But what I'm most ready for, to come into the league and be able to do, is defend."
The question about Shumpert is whether he can contribute much at the other end of the floor, especially, from the Knicks' perspective, as a shooter.
The same is said about another workout participant on Thursday, Chris Singleton, a 6-8 forward from Florida State who has a LeBron James-type body. The Knicks would love to see Singleton slip to No. 17, but it isn't likely according to most draft predictions.
Most players don't want to tumble too far in the draft, but falling to the Knicks isn't a bad thing for Singleton.
"I'd get to learn a lot if I get picked by the Knicks; maybe got the No. 1 power forward, maybe the No. 1 small forward in the country," he said.
[In his eagerness, Singleton might have forgotten about LeBron and Kevin Durant.]
The attraction with Singleton is that he has the physical tools to take on those types of players, which could take some pressure off Carmelo during those matchups. Singleton also has a decent shooting touch and can be developed into a three-point shooter. The Knicks got a pretty good defender and three-point shooter from Florida State in the 2009 draft, when they bought the rights to Toney Douglas from the Lakers. Douglas was a senior captain when Singleton was a freshman at FSU. The two caught up before the workout.
In a refreshing twist of honesty -- at this point in the pre-draft process, you'd think every guy has first-overall potential by the stuff you hear -- Singleton admitted he didn't do as well as he could for the Knicks. He said he has five more workouts left, all with lottery teams.
"I shot the ball well, but it wasn't my best workout," he said. "I missed a couple of shots I know I usually make. But overall, it was decent."
Shumpert has heard Bruce Bowen comparisons, which certainly fits one of the needs the Knicks have in building around Amar'e and Carmelo. At this point he's been projected as a later first-round pick.
He also had a good matchup in the workout against Hofstra's Charles Jenkins, who is desperately trying to convince his hometown team to take a chance on him. Jenkins has good size (6-3, 216) and strength, but is sort of a tweener when it comes to point guard. Most scouts I talk to say he's a legitimate NBA player who could be the kind that sticks in the league for a long time. But the projection for him is more like one of those reliable backups, in the Anthony Carter mold.
"For me, I think my advantage is my size -- I never have a problem getting my shot off," Jenkins said. [Shumpert] is a great defender, he made it tough for me, but I think I did a great job, not just shooting but getting my teammates the ball."
Jenkins said he has worked out for the Spurs, Rockets, Heat, Timberwolves, Nuggets and Bulls, with more scheduled for the Bobcats, Pacers and Mavericks.
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* - Along with the predraft process, the Knicks are also putting a focus on free-agent players for both next year's roster as well as their new D-League team. Today the team is hosting the second day of a two-day minicamp for unsigned free agents that could be targets for training camp invites. With the potential for a lockout, the Knicks wanted to get an early start on their scouting of reclamation projects, which are always a cheap way to fill a roster and sometimes (see: Shawne Williams) can reap rewards.
Two recognizable names among the group the team had in are Javaris Crittenton and Bonzi Wells. Crittenton's career has been in a nosedive since his gun-related incident with Gilbert Arenas as teammates with the Washington Wizards during the 2009-10 season. He was in Bobcats training camp last season but cut and bounced around in the D-League and China.
Wells is 34 years old and played with five NBA teams over a 10-year career from 1998 to 2008, with his most notable -- and notorious -- stop with the Portland Trail Blazers. Always a popular teammate, but also one to test the patience of a coach, Wells last played professionally in Puerto Rico in 2009.