Defensive Stopper: From the time Iman Shumpert stepped on the floor for the New York Knicks, it became clear he brought a significant defensive prowess to the lineup. His ability to guard team’s most efficient wing-player was a staple the Knicks roster had been longing for. Shump’s mix of physicality and quickness are valued attributes on the defensive side of the ball. Iman made a name for himself as one of the league’s best young defenders during his rookie season. Even post ACL surgery, Shumpert has shown he has not skipped a beat on the defensive end. Going forward, as Shump becomes more accustomed to the NBA game and schemes, one could only think he will further enhance his defensive abilities?
Improved 3-point %: In his shortened sophomore campaign, Shumpert improved his 3-point shooting percentage to 40%. This is a significant increase from his rookie season percentage of 30%. Most of this is a result of better-shot selection and understanding of the NBA game. The large jump in such a short period is a sign that Iman is just starting to break the ice of his potential.
Athleticism: After drafting Shumpert with the 17th pick in the 2011 draft, the Knicks brass harped on Iman’s superior athletic ability. He has certainly not disappointed the front office in that sense. Iman’s athletic ability has a direct correlation on the defender he has become. Shumpert is a rarity in the sense he can guard 3 positions on the floor: point guard, shooting guard, and small forward. He has the quickness to guard a point guard, and the physical makeup to defend a small forward. On the offensive end, he has the ability to play above and finish at the rim.
Accountability: At the conclusion of the Knicks series loss to the Pacers, few players took responsibility for their play on the court. One of the players who did step up and take some sort of accountability was Iman Shumpert. After listening to players like Tyson Chandler seemingly deflect the blame onto others, it was refreshing to hear Shump step up.
Grit and Passion: To be a successful NBA team, you need guys to play with passion and will to win. Whether it was diving on the floor for a loose ball, or competing for a steal or rebound, Shumpert has shown that he wants it. During the playoffs, Shumpert showed the potential of being a leader on this Knicks team. In a playoff series where the team seemed to be lackadaisical at times, Shumpert showed he was locked in, at times carrying the Knicks on both ends.
Ball Handling: It’s no secret that the Knicks experiment with Shumpert at the point was a failed one. Athletically, Iman has the make-up to compete with the top-tier point guards, but he lacked the required ball handling skills. At times Shump is a little too casual with the ball and will need to sure this up going into the season. Unfortunately, athleticism cannot completely negate this issue.
Playing off Melo: As we all know, the Knicks offense will be run through Carmelo Anthony. A bad habit that many Knicks players get into is standing around and watching Melo operate. For the isolation offense to be most effective, guys like Shump must do better moving without the ball. In most cases, teams will double Melo in the post, opening tons of space for others to fill. I’d like to see Shumpert be more of a cutter and slasher, inevitably getting himself some easy buckets.
Creating own shot: Iman said it best at the conclusion of the Pacer series. He said he must find a way to get his own shot and not settle for the 3-ball. While the mid-range game is a seemingly lost art in the NBA, it could be a vital weapon for Shump. To maximize his offensive output, Shump must learn to be a more consistent shooter off the dribble and incorporate a pump fake into his repertoire.
Harness and utilize athleticism: By this I mean Shump must find a balance between when to take a step back and when to be aggressive. I believe he took a nice step forward in this department last year, but he must continue to improve going into this season. Against good defensive teams, the Knicks often found themselves having difficulty finding easy shots. This point ties in directly with how Shump plays off of Melo. Hopefully, as he becomes more comfortable exploding off his surgically repaired knee, Shump will find himself attacking the basket more consistently. At the same time, there is no reason for Iman to be forcing shots. This was a major issue of his during his rookie campaign.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations with OG Tommy Dee about Shumpert accepting his role on the Knicks roster. It’s evident that the Knicks fan base has already labeled Shumpert as a star, but I think it is time we take a step back from that notion. While it’s nice to hear Shumpert showing the desire to be a second option to Melo, that idea is premature at this moment. I’d like to see Shumpert stay the course and continue to take the necessary progressions.
This season for Shumpert will be a very telling one. While the sky may be the limit, it will be on his shoulders to put the potential in motion. He will need to take the necessary steps forward to further solidify his spot on the Knicks roster. If Shumpert finds himself taking steps backwards, you could easily see himself playing his way out of New York.