When the New York Knicks drafted Iman Shumpert in 2011 with the No. 17 overall pick, he was showered with boos. At the time, the boos were unwarranted mainly since Shumpert had never played in an NBA game just yet. Little did we know, these boos would be perfectly valid a few years down the road.
In season number one, Shumpert vastly exceeded expectations, especially those of an average seventeenth pick. He headlined the NBA All-Rookie First Team and was also invited to participate in the Slam Dunk contest, but was forced to decline due to injury. In addition to averaging a solid 10 points per game, Shumpert’s on-ball defense really caught the eyes of NBA junkies nationwide.
Defense has been sort of a lost treasure in the basketball world primarily because it is much more difficult to document than offense. Scoring is reflected the most in a stat line followed by assists/rebounds and finally steals/blocks. The issue with recording steals and blocks in a box score is that the average always and will forever be too minuscule to hold significant value. Therefore, defense is overlooked due to the overwhelming number of stat-watchers nowadays. In order to truly absorb the impact a player has on the defensive end of the court, one cannot rely on the statistics but the actual performance rather. Contrary to popular belief, great defense is so beautiful to watch that is almost more appealing than great scoring.
So after this whole spiel on the importance of a defensive minded player, why should the Knicks trade perhaps their best on-ball defender?
Well, as much as defense is valued, if a player has the inability to score, he turns into a liability on the floor. Shumpert’s scoring averages have steadily decreased throughout all three seasons of his career (Year 1 – 9.5 ppg, Year 2 – 6.8 ppg, Year 3 – 6.7 ppg), as did his shooting percentage (Year 1 – 40.1 percent, Year 2 – 39.6 percent, Year 3 – 37.8 percent). For a player whose career minutes average is pushing 30, these numbers are absolutely awful. Eventually, the opposing team will shift off of Shumpert, resulting in Carmelo Anthony constantly being doubled teamed forcing his numbers to slip. Best case scenario now is that Shumpert evolves into the second coming of Tony Allen, or an upgraded version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Knicks will simply have no other choice but to bench Shumpert down the stretch of games.
Now you’re probably wondering why trade him prior to the season opener?
Believe it or not, other teams likely have not given up hope on Shumpert. Many would be willing to take on the rookie scale contract of Shumpert in hopes of turning his offensive woes around. In other words, Shumpert’s trade value is much higher than it probably will be come NBA trade deadline time. After the deadline, New York can basically lose him for nothing as he enters free agency in the summer of 2015. Seeing how players such as Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward have received near maximum contracts, retaining Shumpert for a decent price is all but possible.
Trade value aspects aside, trading Shumpert would also open the door for Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s development into a potential starting shooting guard down the line. He will remain on a rookie scale contract for three more years now, which is perfect for the Knicks as Phil Jackson is seeking all-star caliber players via free agency next summer. Getting rid of Shumpert now is totally worth avoiding the potential poisonous situation down the road.