Iman Shumpert the Phoenix Suns' diamond in the rough?

With the 13th pick in the 2011 NBA draft the Phoenix Suns select … Iman Shumpert. Iman Shumpert? My thoughts exactly.

A few weeks ago Shumpert figured to be a late first-round pick at best and a clear afterthought in terms of the top point guards on the board. I never imagined Phoenix could even consider Shumpert over an all-important big man or possible point guard of the future.

With all of the talk surrounding Tristan Thompson, Jimmer Fredette, Markieff Morris, Jordan Hamilton and Bismack Biyombo, Shumpert seemed irrelevant.

But the Suns have made it clear they’re interested, and after taking an in-depth look at Shumpert’s game, I can see why. Shumpert has all of the makings to become a diamond in the rough of sorts for the Phoenix Suns.

He averaged 17.3 points per game last season and has measurables that NBA scouts drool over: 6-foot-6, 222 pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and 42-inch vertical (the best at the NBA combine).

“He’s a combo guard, can play both the one and the two, did that at Georgia Tech,” said Suns director of player personnel John Treloar. “As far as an athlete he’s at the top of the list athletically in the draft. Yeah, he’s at the top.”

Shumpert’s also one of the draft’s best defenders, and the 2.75 steals per game (7th best in the NCAA) he averaged last season back that up. He’s a ballhawk in help position and a tremendous on the ball defender with the ability to defend point guards, shooting guards and small forwards.

“Big, strong guard,” general manager Lance Blanks said of Shumpert. “He was in a situation where the team’s performance wasn’t really great over the last few years at Georgia Tech. I think he can defend really well.”

If the Suns really are sold on a point guard, Shumpert should be their guy. After the top tier of point guards (Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette), there’s a huge drop-off in talent.

So if the Suns miss out on the upper-echelon floor generals and aren’t buying into the Jimmer hype (if he’s even around), then Shumpert makes a lot of sense. He addresses an area of need, yet has the upside to develop into a star.

His explosiveness and scoring prowess could make him a playmaker for a Suns team thirsting for exactly that, and if he can develop his point guard skills he could take the torch from Steve Nash.

Worst case scenario he’ll bring defense and energy right away and turn into a serviceable backup down the road. But with a ceiling as high as Shumpert’s, the best-case scenario could give the Suns the superstar they need.

Shumpert plays a lot like Russell Westbrook (who he models his game after) and even Tyreke Evans as he’s an explosive, physical, attack-first guard who’s stuck between positions. He’s also extremely inefficient (40.6 FG%) with limited range (27.8 3P%) and a high turnover rate (over 3.0 TOs per game in two out of three years).

Last season he forced shots (on a bad GT team mind you) and didn’t exactly show the point guard skills you’d hope for from a point-guard prospect. But if Shumpert could become an average passer and decision maker, his scoring ability and athleticism could make him a future All-Star.

I still think if the Suns can land a big like Tristan Thompson or Biyombo they should be all over it. Even if Hamilton, Klay Thompson or Alec Burks are around they certainly have to be considered. But after watching Shumpert play a little more, I understand the Suns’ infatuation.

So give the possibility of Iman Shumpert becoming a Sun a chance, because if he ever reaches his full potential, Phoenix is one step closer to becoming a defensive-minded club with a possible young stud to boot.

Tags: Draft Iman Shumpert Phoenix Suns Analysis

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