Iman Shumpert is going to be a huge part of the New York Knicks moving forward, that is if he doesn’t get traded abruptly by Glen Grunwald. At 23 years old, already having cracked the Knicks starting lineup, Shumpert should be the future of the organization given all of his talent. He bursted on to the scene as a rookie in 2011-2012 averaging 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game, but suffered a setback when he tore his ACL in the playoffs that season. Midway through the 2012-2013 NBA season Shumpert made a comeback, but as expected it took him some time go get back in the groove of things.
Surprisingly the defensive tenacity that defines Shumpert was immediately apparent and he had a profound impact on that side of the ball, granted he was playing out of position at the small forward spot. Another element of his game that still shines is his undeniable athleticism, as we all know he can jump out of the gym. As the season progressed he got more comfortable and began trusting his knee that it wouldn’t give out on him again. After an entire summer of working out and being on the court, Shumpert is primed to be a breakout player in 2013, if he can show consistency on the offensive end.
For all the strengths “Shump” shows on the court, he is not without a few weaknesses.
The biggest criticisms of Shumpert coming out of college were his inconsistent outside shooting, decision making and ability to run the point. This off-season Shumpert was supposed to work out in the summer league as a point guard, but left after just one game. This is kind of irrelevant since the Knicks have three point guards on the roster, Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih along with Toure Murry coming to camp as a fourth point guard. Shumpert has some ability as a point guard, but long term he should play shooting guard for the Knicks.
Shumpert’s scoring did take a bit of a dip last season, from 9.5 points per game in his rookie year to 6.8 points per game in his sophomore campaign, however examining the numbers he was more consistent from three point range. He went from shooting just over 30% from deep in his rookie season to shooting just over 40% from three this past season. This is huge for a team like the Knicks that is so dependent on three pointers. It’s important to keep in mind that on offense Shumpert is going to be asked to get in position to score to alliviate some pressure from Carmelo Anthony and stay on the perimeter to create more spacing for the Knicks offense. That doesn’t mean that Shumpert shouldn’t use his athleticism at times.
Another part of Shumpert’s game that needs to improve is his ability to create his own shot. Frequently Shumpert has defenders draped all over him because he tries to make simple moves to create some space. He needs to not settle for jump shots and drive to the basket more and use that athleticism to finish at the rim, but that will come with time and again gaining more trust in his body, particularly that knee.
All the talk this off-season has been on Shumpert being more aggressive and becoming the second scoring option on the Knicks. There is no reason to doubt Shumpert, after all the ability is there, but he needs to take the necessary leaps forward in order to take over that secondary scoring role behind Carmelo Anthony. He needs to try and get his shooting percentage up to around 43-45%, and keep on being a difference maker on the defensive end.
For Shumpert’s sake I hope that Mike Woodson plays a more conventional size and style lineup moving forward, because not only will it help the Knicks on the defensive side of the ball, but it also will allow Shumpert to play his natural position and grow as a shooting guard. He can play tight defense on the perimeter, force steals on opposing guards and on offense use his size and strength to shoot over his defender. There is no reason to think Shumpert won’t be in the Knicks starting lineup next season, given J.R. Smith’s status being up in the air to start the season. The Knicks will need someone to step up and handle some of the scoring load, hopefully that will be Shumpert. It is time for him to show why he should be the future of the New York Knicks.