The 17th pick in the 2011 draft, Iman Shumpert was Donnie Walsh’s last “gift” to Knicks fans. The mix of cheers, boos, and “what the…who?!” permeated MSG the night Shump was drafted in the 1st round of a fairly deep draft. It didn’t take long, however, for the Garden to chant his name and for the NBA/Knicks Twitter-verse to explode with love for the rook!
Shumpert had a great rookie campaign, averaging around 10 points, 3 boards, 3 assists, and 2 steals per game. He was constantly in the rookie-of-the-year conversation (finishing 5th), garnering rave reviews as one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league. Shumpert’s athleticism and attitude quickly made him a fan-favorite, even getting him invited to the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend. His season came to an abrupt end during the Knicks’ 1st round playoff series against Miami, as he tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee dribbling down the court. Shump was still named to the 2012 All-Rookie First Team after the season ended.
Shump showed flashes of brilliance on offense, showcasing great dribble-drive penetration and a penchant for knocking down three-pointers, seemingly when the Knicks needed them most. He was never expected to be a primary scorer for the team as he was often asked to run the point (out of position) and of course defer to Melo and STAT. But his offensive game is underrated and he is spending his offseason, of course, rehabbing his knee, but also working on his jumper with Knicks great, Allan Houston.
Shump’s forte was his on-the-ball defense, as he was often asked to guard the other team’s best wing player. He proved he can hang with any player in the league (other than maybe LeBron), frustrating many opposing players with his long frame and quickness. When he does return from his injury, he will be brought along slowly, but at the pace he is healing he could be set to fill that role again in the playoffs.
Iman’s role on the team is going to be conditional based on how quickly he can return and what shape he’ll be in. He has been working very hard on rehabilitation of the knee, but also on his offensive game, and a little hip-hop here and there!
Seriously, his role will come down to how much he can contribute, but believe the Knicks will bring him along slowly because he is the future, but also because they don’t have many draft picks or assets in the next few years. His health is crucial. Shump’s a young guy with a strong will, I fully expect to see him playing meaningful minutes for the Knicks in April, May, and maybe even June!