Iman Shumpert is somewhat of a rarity for the New York Knicks.
He is a young player who is talented that was drafted with a Knicks draft pick by the Knicks. There hasn’t been one of those since 2008 (Danillo Gallinari, sorry Landry Fields but you were fool’s gold).
Since most Knicks fans were blown away that the team drafted someone good, Shumpert has become the apple in many Knicks fan’s eyes. Every Knicks fan remembers chanting Shumpert’s name early in his rookie season to become the new starting point guard over Toney Douglas and Mike D’Antoni reluctantly giving in.
Even though it went just horribly it showed the Knicks fans belief that this kid was for real. Since then Shumpert has refined his three point shooting game and began to gain his defensive prowess back as his knee fully recovered last year (he clearly came back at least six weeks too early).
Is he what Knick believe he is all cracked up to be though? Can he be a really valuable starter on a title team or even better, like a borderline All-Star? Let’s take a look.
Above everything else, Shumpert is known for his defense. Two seasons ago Knicks’ fans marveled at his ability to stifle even the most talented guards on a nightly basis. Last year though was a different story. Shumpert’s stats are a little more difficult to analyze because he was building towards being 100 percent for much of the time he played last year but they also can’t be ignored.
Last year, Shumpert held opposing shooting guards to a PER of 15.0, the league average. If he guarded them for 48 minutes, the opposing shooting guard would average 19 points, six rebounds, and four assists on a 47% eFG. This isn’t bad but it’s also not what you’d think of when thinking of the NBA’s elite defensive players.
Shumpert, who started many games last year at the small forward fared slightly worse there against the bigger players. Considering the Knicks may start Pablo Prigioni this season at the other guard position that may slide Shumpert back to the three for more time. This may stunt his growth as a player but a bigger sample is needed there.
What should get Knicks fans really excited is the evolution of Shumpert’s offensive game. After struggling to dribble, pass, and shoot for much of his rookie year, Shumpert last year turned into a real threat offensively. His TS%, eFG%, 3P%, and TOV% all improved from the year before. Shumpert improved dramatically from three, going from 30.6 percent to 40.2 percent. He also shot above the league average from the left corner three and the right side of the arc, making him a very valuable weapon on offensive rebounds and kick outs. If Shumpert can sustain this production from beyond the arc, he will be someone teams have to worry about and keep a man on for most of the game.
He still isn’t particularly good at dribbling or passing, he looked lost on many drive attempts but that can be worked on. Coach Woodson wanted to work Shumpert out at the point in the Summer League but Shumpert flew to China after one game for a sneaker event. Hopefully Woodson and his staff can work more closely on these fundamentals as the offseason wanes. While corporate gigs can be hard to work around it is a little troubling that Shumpert apparently made no effort to work with the Knicks’ staff to get in the practice time they felt he needed before he had to leave.
Overall Shumpert’s ceiling may not be as high as some Knicks fans believe (the prospect of him making a few all-star games seems a little outlandish at the moment) but if he can mold himself into the Knicks’ version of Bruce Bowen that would be amazing for the team.
Since the NBA is clearly turning into a guards league teams need defensive stoppers on the wing. If Shumpert can work his defense up to where many believe it can be there is no reason why he couldn’t be a key cog on a title contending team.