In his rookie season, New York Knicks‘ Iman Shumpert was as surprising of a late first-round pick as Tim Hardaway Jr. has been for the Knicks this season. Fans were not happy about the Shumpert selection on draft night when he was taken with the No. 17 overall pick, but they were almost immediately won over by the 6-foot-5 athletic combo guard/forward who was all about defense — something the Knicks had forgotten about in the years before he arrived.
But we all know there aren’t too many successful combo guard/forwards in the NBA; it’s very difficult to focus on more than one position. In his rookie year, Shumpert was thought of primarily as a shooting guard, but he was quickly summoned to start at point guard. He then suffered an MCL sprain (sound familiar?) and ultimately lost his point guard duties to Jeremy Lin, returning to shooting guard when he recovered several weeks later. Shumpert finished his rookie season by tearing his ACL in the first game of the NBA playoffs. When he returned in his sophomore season last year, Shumpert was the Knicks’ starting shooting guard. That was until they went with a two point guard lineup and moved Shumpert to small forward. That’s where he has been for the majority of this season. But according to sources close to Shumpert, he doesn’t like playing small forward and feels like he is being misused by coach Mike Woodson.
So the question is, what position should he play? If not small forward, should he start at point guard, where the Knicks severely struggle? I think the answer here is a quick no. Shumpert’s career-high in assists was in his rookie season when he played a lot at point, and he only mustered 2.8 APG while turning it over 1.9 times per game. That is an awful assist to turnover ratio.
Should he start at shooting guard where the Knicks have the most depth? He isn’t a better shooter than Hardaway Jr. or J.R. Smith. In fact, Shumpert’s FG percentage has dropped every year of his career, from 40.1 percent in his rookie campaign to 37.7 percent this season. He is a better defender, sure, but what he lacks on the offensive end makes him a below average shooting guard.
Shumpert has shown flashes of not just being a defensive player, scoring 53 points over two days against the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs in early January. He does have great shooting form, and when he is confident he can knock down threes with ease. So he is probably best suited long term as a shooting guard. The more important thing, however, is that he needs a distributing point guard to play alongside to get him open shots, for he is not a shot creator. This happening with the Knicks doesn’t seem likely seeing as Hardaway Jr. and Smith are likely not going anywhere anytime soon. The Knicks have been playing musical chairs with Shumpert in finding him a proper position, and it’s no wonder he has struggled to improve.