We saw in his rookie year what a player Iman Shumpert had the potential to become. Then the unthinkable for any basketball player happened, Iman Shumpert tore his ACL in the fateful playoff game against Miami in game 1. Especially as a rookie, this was very frustrating, as after your first year at the top of sport you want to learn and progress over the offseason at the same rate you have been moving before. But to Shump’s evident frustration, this was only a time for rehab and repair, of both body and mind.
In London on January 17th 2013, in a game, which I was lucky enough to attend, Iman made his 2012/13 season debut on the floor at the O2 arena in front of a packed crowd. His new flat top haircut had been a talking point, but everybody was anxious to see what he could do on the floor, and if he could keep up with the pace of a high intensity game. His 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist, and 1 block in less than 15 minutes of floor time, showed that he was still able to contribute by doing all the different things Knicks fans were used to seeing him do, albeit in a restricted amount of time.
Fast forward to the end of the season: The flat top was still there in all its glory, and Shumpert’s play had seen a steady rise to the end of the season, climaxing in a thunderous put-back dunk off a Copeland miss against the Pacers in the playoff series that rendered everybody speechless. This was much to the delight of Knicks fans who constantly reminded Bulls fans that Rose and Shumpert had the same injury on the same day while Rose played the role of a mere supporter during the entire Chicago season, Shump was back!
So, moving forward: Shump has solidified his reputation as one of the best lockdown perimeter defenders in the league. He is often assigned to guard the best guards on the opposing team, but he must keep working on this aspect of his game. He is slated to be “Defensive Player of the Year in 5 years time” which just shows his true defensive caliber, but that statement relies on his improvement over that period. His 1.4 steals per game over his career shows his high intensity hustle.
Although we occasionally see him with a strong dunk, in my humbled opinion Iman could round out his game by adding more drives to the hoop and aggression in the offensive paint. We saw sparks of this in his rookie season, but after his recovery we saw a rejuvenated Shumpert from beyond the arc, as he had worked on shooting 3’s extensively. But his inside game was not quite up to the standard many had hoped.
Also, as I mentioned, he now has a much-improved jumper. One of the most reliable on the team from long-range in fact. However, he could add a pull up jumper off or maybe some quality drives to the hole, as we now know he is explosive and quick again. This would mean that perimeter defenders would have much more on their plate than just stopping the 3-pointer from draining. It would also be a weapon in the early season as many defenders will be pressuring him deep, so if he can drive past them and penetrate it would take them by surprise.
Adding these skills to his game would make him a much more versatile player and a center piece to the roster. He could even become a number 2 scoring option, after the prolific Carmelo Anthony of course, if he made such improvements to his game, but that may come in a couple more years. It is a lot to ask of a player to up their offensive game that much in such a short amount of time.
The only other major quality that Iman could do to become an overall better player would be to work on his strength. This would give him more confidence to lock down power players such as Dwyane Wade and Paul George. Furthermore, on the offense his strength would allow him to get into the lane and use his body to cause more problems for the opposition.
Due to an extremely promising start to his career, Shumpert has ended up being an integral part of Glen Grunwald’s future plans for the Orange and Blue. Hopefully he will come back even stronger next season and help the Knicks grab that elusive Championship!