Very few players on the New York Knicks have deserved praise for their early-season play. The team has been stuck in a roster-wide malaise, clanking jumpers off the rim, handling the ball carelessly, and failing to exert enough effort on defense. Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton, for instance, have struggled with their offense, while the rest of the team has done little to step up and carry the weight.
Iman Shumpert has not played badly, but he hasn’t answered the call either. Shumpert spoiled Knicks fans early with a strong preseason in which he was aggressive on both ends of the floor, yet under control and smooth. His jumper was one fluid, accurate motion; he hounded opponents and cleaned the defensive glass; when he had the ball, he attacked defenses, pushing the pace and putting pressure on the opposing team. That Shumpert hasn’t been seen nearly enough in the first six regular season games.
In fact, in several games, Shumpert has been flat-out quiet, borderline invisible. Some of this is on the team and Mike Woodson — Shumpert needs to be involved in order to make his presence felt. Nonetheless, Shumpert is a difference-maker for the Knicks, and he needs to exert himself in the game to have that desired effect.
Shumpert’s on-off court stats indicate that he’s a productive player, but they aren’t telling enough. According to NBA.com/Stats, Shump is one of 11 Knicks with a negative net-rating on the court, yet the Knicks’ overall net-rating with him on the bench is even worse. The Knicks’ defense improves by two points per 100 possessions when Shumpert is on the court, and their offense improves by one point per 100 possessions with him on the court. This is good, but for those familiar with Shumpert’s potential impact on the floor, it’s not enough. By comparison, Metta World Peace, Pablo Prigioni, and Raymond Felton all have higher discrepancies in their on-off net-ratings than Shumpert. This shouldn’t be the case as Shump has the ability to make a bigger impact on the court than all three.
On offense, it seems Shumpert (and the Knicks, by extension) is utilizing the wrong weapon most of the time. According to Synergy, Shump’s three most frequent type of shots come in transition, on spot-ups, or in isolations. In transition and on spot-ups, Shumpert is managing just 40% and 35.7% FG%, respectively. On spot-ups, his three-point FG% is just 30%. Despite making up nearly 50% of his offense, he’s averaging less than a point per play on these attempts.
In contrast, Shumpert has taken eight shots in isolation, canning 50% of them; this makes up for almost 20% of his typical offensive plays. Two areas Shumpert and the Knicks need to emphasize more are pick-and-roll ball-handling and off-ball cuts. The two combined only make up about 14% of his total offense, but he’s shooting 75% in eight total attempts in those plays. In the pick-and-roll, in particular, Shumpert has improved his handle and his vision, and going to that play might make him a more effective contributor on offense. In addition, he and the Knicks both need to be smarter and more clever about getting him looks off of cuts.
On defense, Shumpert also isn’t utilizing his best tools. Since arriving on the Knicks in 2011, he’s been thought of as one of, if not the best isolation, perimeter defender on the team. However, this season, Shumpert simply isn’t playing smart in isolation situations. According to Synergy, he’s allowing opponents to shoot 50% in isolation situations. This season, Shumpert is leading the Knicks in fouls per game at a pretty astounding 3.5 per contest. This indicates that Shumpert is reaching far too often, and in turn, he’s taking himself off the court and hurting his team.
While Tyson Chandler is absent from the team, the Knicks need more production across the board. While Chandler and Shumpert play entirely different roles, they both have the ability to be high-impact players without necessarily putting up gaudy stats. Improvement on catch-and-shoots from Shumpert would be nice, but he and Mike Woodson need to be smarter about where they place him on the court and in what kind of offensive sets. Furthermore, Shumpert has the kind of contagious defensive energy that could spur the Knicks to lock up the perimeter a bit more soundly.
If the Knicks want to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference, they need greater production all around, and Shumpert is one of the players on this team that can take his game to another level.
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