The New York Knicks drafted Iman Shumpert, the best rapper in league history, with the 17th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, mainly for his immense defensive potential. The Knicks also needed help at point guard after amnestying Chauncey Billups and it seemed that Shumpert, a point guard in college at Georgia Tech, could eventually learn to fill that role.
The point guard experiment didn’t quite work out though. Those Georgia Tech teams were known for having talented interior players who couldn’t get the ball consistently because of uneven guard play. Shumpert showed flashes of playmaking ability, but never excelled in that area either in college or in the pros, and he has been more effective at small forward than at point guard. He has, however, made an impact on the defensive side of the ball as a pro.
When he entered the league, he was a little too quick on the trigger for his own good and right from his debut, he forced too many questionable jumpers. He made up for it partly with his ability to explode to the rim, but his finishes lacked finesse and he would sometimes botch makeable layups. He shot a mediocre 52.9 percent at the rim as a rookie while also struggling from the three-point line, converting just 30.6 percent of his attempts.
An ACL tear in the 2012 playoffs forced him to sit out until January 2013 and for a while, he was a noticeably less explosive leaper (he missed a few dunk attempts in the early going). His shooting percentage at the hoop dropped to a dreadful 40.9 percent, but the offseason spent recovering from his ACL tear gave him plenty of time to practice his shooting and he became a pretty good spot-up three-point threat.
Shump hit 40.2 percent of his threes in the 2012-13 season (his three-point percentage was actually higher than his field goal percentage) and he no longer hurt the Knicks’ offensive spacing. Shumpert was especially effective with the corner three, now a hallmark of modern NBA offenses. He likely benefited from getting more assisted buckets rather than having to create for himself, which is still something he struggles with. Towards the end of the season, his vertical explosiveness seemed to recover somewhat and another offseason of recovery should improve his finishing at the rim this season.
Even as a rookie, Shumpert was a tremendous one-on-one defender (he held opponents to just 39 percent shooting last year), although he still has difficulty getting around screens (opposing players shot 45 percent against him off screens, according to MySynergySports.com). More experience should improve his awareness and make him a better team defender.
While in the regular season, the Knicks actually performed better on offense and defense with Shumpert on the bench than on the court, part of that could be attributed to the adjustment period after his return from injury. It took a while before he was playing like himself again. In the playoffs, he was the Knicks’ best two-way player.
The Knicks were 6.9 points per 100 possessions better on offense and 4.7 points per 100 possessions better on defense when Shump was on the floor. This is a tremendous difference and one that should have warranted more playing time, per Basketball-Reference.com. He was even the team’s best defensive rebounder for stretches in the postseason and he was consistent from beyond the arc, hitting 42.9 percent from deep.
Shumpert has stated that he wants to be able to carry a bigger load as a scorer, but at the moment, he’s better suited to being a spot-up shooter. He’s already one of the league’s best “3 and D” guys and if he can improve his ability to attack the basket off the dribble, he could eventually develop into a borderline All-Star and a key player for the Knicks for years to come.
Chris Harrison is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @chris_harrison1.