Subject to mismanagement from Mike Woodson and constant trade speculation, Iman Shumpert's third year in the NBA found him flashing more potential and often falling far short of the needed consistency.
This should have been Iman Shumpert’s year. He had finally experienced his first full offseason in the NBA after missing the first two due to lockout and injury. He finally played in the Summer League (one game in which he missed all five shots he took and had as many turnovers as assists) before flying off to China and allegedly upsetting James Dolan in the process. Players are typically expected to make their ‘leap’ during their third season in the NBA, and the Knicks’ only real hope for significant internal improvement rested on their flat-topped defensive menace.
These are Shump’s per 36 minute averages from last year’s ‘yoffs (obligatory): 12 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.5 turnovers on 41-43-86 shooting. If he could finish more consistently in transition and maybe dish the ball a bit better we’re talking about an All-Star candidate shooting guard in this Eastern Conference. Healthy Shump should have at least competed for All-Defense teams. This was our foil with which to parry Dwyane Wade, Paul George, and Joe Johnson. This was the secret weapon. We hoped for more power dunks. We prayed for more threes. I held out hope for more the return of the flat top after some misbegotten demon caused him to cut his hair just before the start of the season. Shumpert brings a certain toughness and competitiveness to the Knicks that the fanbase loves. More than anything, we expected that to return.
What Iman Shumpert Did Well
Shump clearly took some strides in composure and poise. The difference between taking smart shots and forcing the issue is a subtle dance, and Iman made mostly the right moves there. He still brings tenacity that is matched by few in the league, and his confidence abounds. He has a good sense of when to push the tempo off a rebound, and how far down the court he can safely ramble. Though he still gets jumbled up the closer he funnels his way toward the rim, in general he knew not to just kamikaze all the way in.
While not able to make the leap this year, Shumpert has really become an effective rebounder (up to a TRB% of 9.2 this season), he can hit open triples and above all he's a menacing one-on-one perimeter defender. On offense, he looks very comfortable taking one-dribble pull ups from 15-18 feet whether off curls, in isolation or pick and roll situations. Shump is also really learning when to make backdoor cuts, and has a knack for finding his way to the rim for offensive put-backs. One thing that goes under the radar, and should mean a whole lot for this kid, is that he played a career high 74 games.
Shump is a willing passer and a willing defender with a deep desire to improve. Even in a season like that, advanced stats show the Knicks were simply better with Shump on the court -- a 5.2 net rating, highest on the team (minus Earl Clark's nine-game stint). Sky should be the limit for the wily Shumpertooth Tiger.
What Iman Shumpert Didn't Do Well
A brief overview of a Knicks fans' emotional journey watching Iman Shumpert last season:
- *Shumpert goes 7-7 from the field in preseason opener* "Dude, 7-7! He's hitting everything! This is the year Shump realizes his All-Star potential!"
- *The end of preseason* "Okay, he's still gotta work on his consistency, but he's showing all the tools! The Knicks need Shump this season."
- "Man, why is Mike Woodson being such a dick to Shump? How could he suggest that J.R. could start over him?"
- *December* "Uh, Shump is averaging 5 points per game on 31% shooting this month. He sucks now?"
- "OMG 27 POINTZ, 10-13 FG, 6 REBOUNDS, GAME-WINNING TIP AGAINST SPURZ!!!! SHUMP IS BACK!!!!!"
- "Aw man, Shump is back to sucking"
- "Wow, Shump got injured before the Knicks could trade him for... Matt Barnes and Darren Collison...?"
- "Cool dunk, Shump."
With Shumpert, we kept waiting for the breakout games to come in succession. He scored in double-digits just 19 times and only did it in back-to-back games six times. The long periods of drought in between, the games where he'd only attempt a handful of shots, meander beyond the three-point line, look disengaged on defense -- those happened far too often. Then he'd tease us with gems like his back-to-back eruptions on the Texas road trip in January, and our expectations would skyrocket, only to fall hard back to earth.
It's hard to tell how much blame to pin on Mike Woodson's poor understanding of how to coach and use Shumpert versus Iman's own inability to conform and adjust. There are plenty of tangible things to point at and say Shumpert needs to do better. He doesn't attack off the dribble enough, he needs to set his teammates up better, guard ball-handlers more often. But we know he can do these things; he needs to do all of it more often. That consistency just almost never happened last season.
Shump's up-and-down campaign can be traced to one moment just prior to the start of the season.
There's no doubt in my mind that Iman Shumpert is a latter-day Samson. Shumpert with a flat-top does things like this:
While Shumpert without a flat-top does this.
That's all the evidence you need. Of course, it wasn't all bad, with the Knicks' games at San Antonio and Houston being the perfect examples.
There was also the April 2nd game against Brooklyn in which he had 5 steals.
All in all, Shump didn't have a great season, but at least he provided us with a few classic Shump-style highlights.
And hey, there's hope for next season. Samson's regrowing the flat-top.
Shump earns $2.6M this year. Next year, the Knicks can let him go or give him a qualifying offer of $3.7M, which would make Shump a restricted free agent and allow the Knicks to match any offer any other team makes him. Should the Knicks marry their future to Iman's or move on? The heart says Shump's a breakout star who's finally ready for his close-up. The head says otherwise.
On the one hand, he's only 24 and has still only played the equivalent of two seasons. As Stingy pointed out earlier, very quietly, in a season that sometimes felt like 82 Hindenburgs, Shump played a career-high 74 games. Other than some mostly-2013 moments where he was clearly not 100% after secret offseason knee surgery, we pretty much got through a whole season without a serious Shump injury (secret offseason knee surgeries are one advanced stat the Knicks dominate. Al Trautwig could introduce them during the halftime statistics: SOKS. Sponsored by Goldman Saks.).
On the other, Shump can't shoot. Every year since entering the league, his shooting percentage has dropped. He hit a career-high 76 threes last year but shot 33% while doing so. Hell, even in college he shot 39% and only 30% on threes.
On the one hand, in the only playoffs of his career two years ago, Shump stepped his game up. The stakes raised and so did his game. You could count the number of Knicks who've excelled in the crucible of the playoffs on that one hand...even if the hand belonged to pitching legend Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown."
On the other, while I don't understand all the advanced stats, 82games.com has Shump behind Felton on certain metrics. Anytime someone who gets paid to do math for a living has you below Felton on anything having to do with basketball, there's a problem.
And yet, as 82games.com taketh, 82games.com giveth: Shump had the second largest net differential on the team last year at +9.2, second only to Melo's +9.8. What's it all mean?
Shump's Knick future is cloudy. Usually in an NBA offense-- and in this the triangle is no exception-- the perimeter guys have to be able to shoot. But on a capped-out team coming off another draft-less offseason, his potential for growth represents most of the team's potential for growth. Actually getting the occasional play call in a coherent offense while playing for a coach he won't chafe under as potential free-agency nears could work wonders for Shumpert's game, and by extension the Knicks. Last year, 41% of Shump's shots came in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. If that sort of play stays in the past, the future could be bright. Maybe Shump grows into the Knicks' Rick Fox. Maybe Scottie Pippen? Yes, I'll take one Scottie Pippen, please. At this point, I'll settle for Shump growing into Courtney Lee. Or for more this:
Most people will agree that Iman's Shumpert's lackluster 2013-14 campaign wasn't entirely his fault, but Shump's season can't be placed solely on Mike Woodson's shoulders. He has a fair amount of improving to do next year if he wants to live up to his potential. C+