The New York Knicks head into this offseason with a conundrum on their hands. They need help on both ends of the floor. Now, who’s to say that help is not already within grasp for them? Yes, Amar’e Stoudemires $100mm pay day ties Glen Grunwald’s hands behind his back financially and gives the Knicks very little wiggle room for major improvement or monetary space. And with a pick right at the heart of the NBA draft, the Knicks could very well strike gold, as well as blow their pick.
However, don’t be alarmed– there is help in the wings—and that help may ultimately be Iman Shumpert.
Iman, being a natural two-way player, already has the necessary tools to become a great player in this league. His natural size and athleticism allow him to be an above average defender (who will only get better over time), and room to grow on the offensive end; this is where the Knicks really could use a shot in the arm. Shumpert was not really the gold standard of consistency as a legitimate second-option for New York this past season, but let’s take into account the seriousness of his inury, and that it was only his second year in the league (Shump will be 23 in 22 days). He’s still young, and his potential could still greatly be untapped.
Here’s where I see Iman Shumpert being utilized next season; He can already defend multiple postions, preferably guards, but we saw him do an exceptional job on forwards in the playoffs, such as Paul Pierce. Then, as an aggressor on offense, which we have seen flashes of throughout the season, and especially in the playoffs. He will have more ball handling duties, and be called upon more to create for others, along with himself. Right there, you are banking on three of the Knicks’ four holes that are utmost important, perimeter D, shot creators, and ball movement. The fourth being a tough, rebounding, YOUNG big man, incase you were wondering.
All these responsibilities may be quite much to ask out of a third year man, but Iman is embracing the opportunity to get better, and this may be the motivation he needs.
As he labeled the season a failure in his exit interview, Shumpert also told reporters he is hoping to make an appearance in Las Vegas in the Knicks summer league.
Having a full summer to work on your game can pay off greatly. Despite the injuries, look at how improved Amar’e Soudemire came into training camp on the block after working with Hakeem Olajuwon.
On top of everything, the guy has heart and determination. Iman is well aware becoming great will not happen over night.
So how important is this to the Knicks right now, and the situation they find themselves in? I say pretty damn important. With finances not agreeing, you have to believe Shumpert’s role next season will be bigger, and I’m confident he answers the bell.
Firstly, in Shumpert’s 45 starts this season, the Knicks went 30-15 when he starts a game. This gave the Knicks a decent spot-up shooter on the weakside to compliment Carmelo Anthony, while being assigned to guard any offensive-minded player from the one, to the three. Building on this, Shumpert rose from a 30% three-point shooter in 2012 to a 40% shooter this year. In the playoffs, he took another step forward and booted up to 42%. The Knicks offensive rating was actually 97.9 in the playoffs when Iman Shumpert was not on the court. They sported a 104.8 rating when he was.
This isn’t to say Iman is the savior on offense, because we all know this is Carmelo Anthony’s show on offense, but it shows how well Shumpert can nicely compliment the offense when given the chance.
Aside from the shooting, it’s tough to judge the effect of Shumpert’s penetration last season, as there were times when he could be rather passive and not even touch the ball sometimes. This should be where Iman places most of his focus this offseason when pertaining to offense. The Knicks look like a well-oiled machine when someone in breaking down the defense constantly, allowing more looks for all the shooters the Knicks trot out. The only problem is, this was not consistent enough. Raymond Felton sort of disappeared when he was needed to run an offense (Indiana series), and JR Smith couldn’t maintain his stellar play consistently enough to be a formidable inside-out threat. Iman Shumpert attempted 89 layups to 270 jump shots this season.
Let’s do some role reversal there.
No way Iman is more effective floating on the perimeter than he could be taking it to the hole, especially when you shoot 78% from the stripe. Of course, his jump shot will get better over time, but when he needs a bucket to get going, or a good shot, you’re going to the basket, and the quickness of Shumpert will help him thrive there.
Is it only coincidence that the Knicks need more aggressors on offense, and that’s what Iman Shumpert could bring to the table next season? I think not. Donnie Walsh knew what he was doing when drafting Shumpert. Anthony needs someone else who can put pressure on opposing defenses. No disrespect to JR Smith, who was that guy this season, he just doesn’t bring the consistency needed, or the work ethic. The summer league should be fun to watch, as we see how well Iman Shumpert can run a team. Coming back in the fall, Shump will be extremely important in what the Knicks want to do. He adds a dimension they need consistently. As we all saw in the playoffs, Shumpert could very well be that guy, and his importance to this team does not go unnoticed over here.