Second-year guard Iman Shumpert has done an excellent job in his second season with the New York Knicks, but the fact that he has such a limited role in the playoffs thus far is a bit odd.
Over the first two games of the Knicks’ opening round series against the rival Boston Celtics, Shumpert has averaged just 20 minutes per contest and has posted 4.5 points and rebounds per game while shooting 37.5 percent from the field. Those numbers aren’t great, but let’s consider Shumpert’s overall talent.
His unique size at 6’5″, 220 pounds gives him the ability to play both shooting guard and small forward, and his being New York’s best on-ball defender allows him to create mismatches and make life on the court difficult for any opponent.
Offensively, Shumpert’s game is very much in the developmental stages. Though his three-point shooting has improved immensely, the man is still more of a slasher than he is a true scoring 2-guard. His mid-range game is not what it should be and in terms of his approach to his scoring game, it’s fairly predictable. Thus, it’s really no surprise that Knicks head coach Mike Woodson prefers to use Shumpert more as a defensive player against the Celtics.
It’s really hard to blame Woodson for not utilizing Shumpert fully against Boston. After all, the Celtics play excellent perimeter defense, and very physically, and allowing Shumpert more freedom with the ball is not only a potential recipe for a major scoring drought on New York’s end but also raises the possibility of the man being injured again. For those unaware, Shumpert suffered a torn ACL in the Knicks’ opening playoff game in 2012, against the Miami Heat.
Just the same, the fact that Shumpert is only being used as a pest against Boston seems like a case of the Knicks being afraid to take risks. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have done an excellent job carrying the scoring load thus far, but what if New York goes on to face a tougher team in a future round? The offense is going to have to be mixed up just a tad.
This means that Shumpert will need the ball more often, as his athleticism and slashing ability make him a unique player for any team to have in its lineup. Throw in his developing long-range game, and he is probably one of the more complete players in New York’s lineup.
Unless he gets more opportunities in the near future, the Knicks could soon find each and every playoff game against Boston or another team to be an epic battle from start to finish rather than a walk in the park.