Iman Shumpert had a great rookie campaign last season. He finished fifth in Rookie Of the Year voting, and was the only rookie to receive votes for Defensive Player Of the Year (an award his teammate, Tyson Chandler, went on to win). He averaged 9.5 PPG, 2.8 APG, 3.2 RPG, and 1.7 SPG. For all of the reasons listed above, the Knicks understandably held their breath when he went down with a torn ACL in the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat.
He rehabbed all summer, and for a good chunk of the season, but was finally ready to return to action January 17th against the Detroit Pistons. He played a decent game in 15 minutes, but his play has been up and down for the most part. He is averaging just 4.6 PPG, 1.4 APG, 2.8 RPG, and 0.9 SPG.
Many have begun to wonder: is this the guy we thought he was? I say yes, and that he will be even better in time. An ACL injury can be one of the most devastating in all of sports. Some people may never fully recover, others return to their previous level, and few can even continue to improve. Shumpert is only 22 years old. He is one of, if not, the most athletic players on the team. Most doctors and players who recover from this sort of injury say it truly takes a year to return to your old self. Shumpert tore his ACL at the end of April, so doesn’t he deserve until the playoffs to get his act together?
In recent games, he has been much more active defensively especially on the ball. He has returned to harping on the ball handler, and forcing him into mistakes that ultimately result in turnovers or a poor possession. His 6 steals against the Warriors on Wednesday night was a prime example of how much of a force he can be on that end of the court.
His defense may be returning, but his offense continues to pose a problem. Last season, he shot 40% from the field. Most of his misses were caused by poor shot selection, but also an inconsistent jump shot. This season, his field goal percentage has plummeted even lower to an abysmal 30%. Shumpert will need to improve his overall scoring (4.5 points will not cut it in this league for most starting shooting guards) and his percentage. On a high note, his 3-point percentage has increased to a respectable 34% after last season’s 30%.
The high-top wonder, as I fondly call him, is the youngest player on the team with one of the best contracts to go along with his skills. He was highly sought after around the trade deadline, and some people have speculated that the Knicks might have been able to create a package surrounding him for the Magic’s J.J. Reddick. I think it was a smart move by the front office to keep Shump. He will be a restricted free agent when this deal is up in a couple years, and the Knicks will need youthful talent that isn’t too pricey.
Overall, Iman Shumpert’s sophomore season should have a big asterisks next to it when he calls it a career. Not only is he only going to have played half a season, but he also had been recovering from a major injury. This is the time for Shump to get his body right, and to figure out what his role will be going into the playoffs. Last year, in round one of the playoffs, the Knicks wanted him to try to shut down Dwyane Wade or Lebron James. Later today, against the Heat, he may have the opportunity to show that he still can.