Iman Shumpert is entering his third year in the NBA. By their third year most NBA players, if they are good enough, have found a role in the league. People know what to expect and how you can best contribute to a team.
Iman Shumpert has shown he can be a productive player in the NBA, but still finds himself fighting for a starting spot this season.
The Georgia Tech product has come a long way as a member of the New York Knicks. Shumpert was booed on draft night when the Knicks selected him 17th in the 2011 NBA Draft. Most fans wanted a big defender to fix the Knicks’ defensive woes. Little did they know, Shumpert would provide the defensive intensity the Knicks were looking for.
Shumpert instantly became a fan favorite because of his scrappy defensive play. Shumpert’s rookie season was respectable. He averaged 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Former Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni tried to play Shumpert at the point guard, but it was unsuccessful; he was more suited to be a wing player. The Knicks made the playoffs, but Shumpert tore his ACL in the first game.
Shumpert returned from his ACL injury last year, and started the remaining 45 games for the Knicks. Shumpert spent most of the regular season getting adjusted to playing after the injury.
Shumpert’s stats last year were not extraordinary, but if you look closer, one statistic stands out: his 3-point field goal percentage. After shooting 30.6% from three in his rookie season, Shumpert shot 40.2% from three last year. That is the sign of a player who dedicated himself to improving a weakness.
Even with his improvements, Mike Woodson has put Shumpert into a competition for the starting shooting guard with J.R. Smith. Smith has already proven his effectiveness off the bench averaging 18.1 points last year en route to the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Woodson also elected to have Shumpert play in the Summer League, which is rare for third year players.
It seems as if Woodson is trying to motivate Shumpert. Woodson has said he would like to see Shumpert improve in the pick and roll and tone down his aggressiveness on defense so that he is not beaten off the dribble. Asked about Woodson’s analysis of his game, Shumpert said, “I’d rather somebody expect a lot out of me than nothing at all.” After coming off the bench the first two preseason games, Shumpert will get a chance to start with the regular starters on Thursday.
Shumpert and Woodson have a good relationship. This is important for a young player, but it is time for Woodson to show trust in Shumpert and name him the starter.
There are multiple reasons Shumpert should start.
1. Shumpert is the best perimeter defender on the team. As the starter he can help set a defensive tone and be assigned to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
2. Shumpert is a better player off the ball than Smith. Shumpert can play better off of Carmelo Anthony when Anthony operates in isolation.
3. J.R. Smith is better suited to come off the bench. Smith is more capable of creating his own shot. This makes Smith a good option to come in off the bench and be a primary scorer for the second unit.
4. Smith is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and is not expected to play until at least the last preseason game. In addition to the surgery Smith was also suspended for 5 games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy.
5. Since Woodson has taken over as head coach, he has preached holding every member of the team accountable. If Woodson decided to name Smith the starter after his suspension, the coach would contradict the accountability mantra.
When the Knicks open the regular season against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 30th, it is assumed Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and Tyson Chandler will start. The fifth player in the lineup should be Iman Shumpert.
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