Will the real New York Knicks shooting guard, please stand up.
This will be the position to watch this year for many reasons. We have some redundancy here, meaning one of these three potential stars may end up trade bait if New York gets off to a poor start.
Let us begin with the many questions and break down each player.
Who will be the last man standing at crunch time? Will Iman Shumpert fulfill his promise? Will J. R. Smith keep his focus and his life out of the weeds? Will Tim Hardaway JR. be half the player his father was?
So we begin with Shumpert.
Last year he was played primarily at the 3 where he averaged 9.3 points in 28 minutes per game. The amazing statistic is he averaged six rebounds per game versus Carmelo Anthony’s 6.6 rebounds per game based on 40 minutes. So we know the kid can rebound.
Jason Kidd, the starting 2-guard most of the year, only averaged one point per game and 3.5 rebounds.
Shumpert is a natural 2 and can play the 3 only to stretch the floor. His three- point accuracy was .402%, versus .396% from the rest of the field.
Now James Dolan was mad at Shumpert for not staying in Vegas to work on his game. He was brought to Vegas to see if he could play the point. I watched the one game he played, it was obvious he is not a true point guard and is not comfortable at the position.
Mike Woodson has to stop playing him at three positions and let him master one position. The facts are for Shumpert to reach his true potential he needs to stay at the 2-guard. He was brought in as a defensive specialist; with Raymond Felton at the point guard you need strong defensive presence at the 2. He is a year removed from his ACL surgery, now is his time to be to the outside of the defense what Tyson Chandler is to the inside.
Smith, yes he was Sixth Man of the Year last year and the guy has great athletic ability and can score. But can Woodson control him? Smith signed a three-year, $18 million free-agent contract this offseason — with an opt-out after the second year.
Since his signing he has had knee surgery, been suspended for marijuana and been linked to an armored car. The immaturity he showed during last year’s playoffs must cease and Woodson and Carmelo must both step in.
Smith loves the spotlight, but he needs to keep his headlines to his ability on the court. This is his time to grow up and show he was worth not only the money, but the faith and latitude coach Woodson has given him.
Otherwise if Shumpert proves to be the star he is predicted to be, J. R’s. mood swings could put him on the bench and possible trade bait as he came cheap for this talent.
Very few rookies move me and get me to think, but Hardaway JR., was the real eye opener of the Vegas Knicks. I like his size at 6’6” and his vertical leap of 37 inches. His shooting was inconsistent from the three point area.
Despite his inconsistency, there is no questioning Hardaway’s overall size, talent and skill level. He’s a well-rounded weapon who can stretch the floor, get out on the fast break with his athleticism, make smart passes, and put the ball on the floor to score.
Smith’s injury and subsequent suspension will force Woodson to play him at the 2 early in the year. This is a good thing as in Vegas he looked NBA ready and did not have the rookie jitters C.J. Leslie exhibited.
He will be an able compliment to Shumpert and needs to put in the time on the court to gain NBA experience. Hardaway has the athletic ability and the propensity to score could make him a mature version of Smith.
Time will tell but from what I saw I liked this young man and he may end up the best of the three.
Dr. Eric Kaplan is a Best Selling author www.drerickaplan.com