It has been an up and down season for the New York Knicks. They have dealt with inconsistency and injuries, but no one has been as perplexing as Iman Shumpert.
The third year guard has had an interesting start to the season and it goes back to this Summer when Shumpert played 1 game in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League. It was reported that the Knicks wanted Shumpert to work on his point guard skills, but that experiment lasted all of one game.
Fast forward to training camp, where coach Mike Woodson publicly stated that Shumpert would be competing for the starting shooting guard position with J.R. Smith. It was an odd decision, because Smith would be suspended for the first five games of the season.
Shumpert responded by shooting 7-7 and scoring 18 points off the bench in the Knicks first preseason game against the Celtics, but he struggled for the rest of the preseason. Shumpert’s struggles continued into the regular season and the criticism of Shumpert intensified.
After shooting 40% from three last season Shumpert was down to 30% through 30 games this season. Shumpert’s overall field goal percentage was also down to 36.5%.
Shumpert’s play also created speculation about possible trade rumors and he seemed to be playing without confidence. It appeared Shumpert was regressing in a season that the Knicks needed him to step into a larger role to contend.
Then the calendar turned to 2014.
In the Knicks first three games of 2014 Shumpert has been superb. He is shooting 69% from the field and has made 22 of his last 32 three point attempts (76.5%). Shumpert sparked the Knicks to a 2-1 road trip against the Spurs, Rockets, and Mavericks.
Shumpert scored 27 against the Spurs in a win, and followed it up with 26 points in a two point loss to the Rockets. He only scored 9 points in a 92-80 win in Dallas, but he had a key reverse layup and three to hold off a late Dallas run.
Shumpert’s offensive production has intensified his defensive effort. He held Monta Ellis (13 points) and Tony Parker (12 points) in check during the wins against Dallas and San Antonio. He also did a good job containing James Harden, although Harden was able to score 37 for the Rockets.
Shumpert’s increased production is a welcome sight for the Knicks, who have been looking for consistent scoring to go alongside Carmelo Anthony. Anthony constantly draws double teams that leave his teammates open. In the past three games Shumpert has made the opposition pay for leaving him open.
If Shumpert — the Knicks’ best perimeter defender — can continue to be efficient and effective on the offensive end; the Knicks can become a threat to win their division.
The Knicks are still without their top two point guards, but Raymond Felton is probable for tonight’s game against the Detroit Pistons. J.R. Smith — who averaged 18.1 points last year — is down to 11.5 points on 35% shooting. If the Knicks can get healthy and get Smith to produce along with Shumpert, they have a legitimate chance to repeat as Atlantic Division Champions.