When the news broke that Jason Kidd would sign with the Knicks, a lot was made of what his presence would mean to the team. His ability to mentor Jeremy Lin and show him the ins-and-outs of running an offense; his potential to find harmony between Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony; to break periods of stagnation in the offense; his presence in the locker room as a respected player with championship experience – all positive benefits of the Kidd acquisition.
However, one aspect that has gone under-mentioned is the role Kidd could have in mentoring Iman Shumpert. Sure, Kidd will play a great role in the development of Jeremy Lin, but Shumpert stands to learn a great deal from the man who’s second all-time in assists and steals. For his career, Kidd has averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, and almost 3 steals per game, and at 6’4″, he has a similar build to Shumpert, making his lessons in play-making and stingy defense all the more valuable.
As a rookie, Shumpert played a valuable role for the Knicks; one that wasn’t necessarily reflected in statistics. His 10.98 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), and 48.2 True Shooting Percentage actually seem to suggest that he was a liability on the floor as both numbers are far below league average (13.50 PER, 52.8 TS%, according to Hoopdata). However, Shumpert’s physical, relentless defense on the wings helped New York’s defense immensely and didn’t force Tyson Chandler to clean up every mess on the defensive end.
As a ball-handler, Shumpert, at times, showed an ability to be a natural play-maker. Though his promotion to starting point guard was out of pure necessity to replace the struggling Toney Douglas, Shumpert averaged 3.5 assists per game in January, and 3.2 assists as a starter in general. He found some success driving the lane and kicking it out to shooters, or dropping it off to big men. By and large, though, Shumpert wasn’t suited to run an offense with scorers like Anthony and Stoudemire, and he especially struggled to do so under Mike D’Antoni, whose offenses are predicated on the pick-and-roll – a play Shumpert had very little success operating in. In college, however, Shumpert did post 5 assists per game, and over 4 assists per game in his freshmen and sophomore seasons, so the ability is there.
This is where Kidd comes in. It’s obvious that Kidd will help Shumpert learn to see the floor better, see openings for passes, pockets in the defense to slip a pass through, etc. He’ll also be able to teach Shumpert the nuances of running an offense, like when to get someone the ball, when to shoot, when to drive, much in the same way he’ll help Jeremy Lin (didn’t mean to underrate that similarly important teacher-student relationship).
Shumpert could already make a case for being one of the top ten wing defenders in the NBA, but as a sophomore he still has a lot to learn. Off the ball, he leaves a lot to be desired, and in general he’s often indecisive on screens, whether to switch or fight over them, and he has shown symptoms of over-helping. As mentioned, Kidd’s name will go down in the record books as one of the all-time great defenders at his position, but his defense has aged as gracefully as he has, too. Look no further than the Mavericks’ championship run tow years ago, where Kidd effectively guarded Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James. For Shumpert to truly become a defensive stalwart, he has to learn how to play smart defense and not simply rely on hounding aggression and athleticism.
Jason Kidd’s oft-discussed, rarely remembered place on the all-time three-pointers made list will also benefit Shumpert. Kidd ranks third all-time in three-pointers made, despite shooting under 35% for his career. Shumpert shot only 30% from beyond the arc this year, and his lack of a reliable jumper has often betrayed him on offense. Shumpert actually has nice form on his jumper, however, and post-All-Star break, there was nearly a ten percent jump in his three-point accuracy – 26.8% pre-All-Star, 34.7% post-All-Star. For Shumpert, the problem may be a matter of when to pull the trigger from deep. This is another place where Kidd may be of help, as his field goal attempts dwindle each year, his three-point percentage has remained consistently solid.
Shumpert, of course, will likely miss the first two months of the NBA season as he recovers from a torn ACL. With Kidd likely sewn up for three years with the Knicks, this time could be valuable for Shumpert to learn from one of the all-time great guards the NBA has ever seen.